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Terrorism & Security

Taliban extends cease-fire in Pakistan's Swat Valley

The move came shortly after a Taliban group in the nearby Bajur region declared a unilateral cease-fire.

By Liam Stack / February 24, 2009

Students read books after their Swat Valley school reopened yesterday. Dozens of girls' schools have been destroyed in the region, where the Taliban has strongly resisted security forces.

Abdul Rehman/Reuters

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The Pakistani Taliban announced an indefinite extension of its controversial 10-day cease-fire in the Swat Valley on Tuesday, less than 24 hours after it agreed to lay down its arms in a second battle-scarred region of Pakistan.

The cease-fire accompanied a peace deal reached last week, in which the government of Pakistan agreed to implement Islamic law in Swat in exchange for an end to violence.

Western governments and many independent observers viewed the deal as a capitulation to Taliban demands and reacted with alarm, reports the Associated Press.

The Taliban cease-fire was due to expire on Wednesday, but spokesman Muslim Khan said insurgent leaders decided to extend it "for an indefinite period."
"From our side, there will be no hostility against the government and the army, and we expect the same from them," Khan told The Associated Press.
Pakistani officials say the offer to introduce Islamic law in Swat and surrounding areas addresses long-standing demands for speedy justice that have been exploited by the Taliban, which residents say now control much of the region.
But NATO and the United States have voiced concern that any peace accord could effectively cede the valley to militants who have defied a yearlong military operation, beheaded opponents and bombed girls' schools.

The Press Trust of India reports that the truce deal was decided by a council of Pakistani militants chaired by Maulana Fazlullah, who leads the Pakistani Taliban and is seen as one of the more extreme figures in the movement.

Mr. Khan told Agence France-Presse that in addition to an indefinite cease-fire the movement was also releasing prisoners "unconditionally," as a "goodwill gesture." The move began with the release of four paramilitary soldiers.

On Monday, the Taliban also announced a unilateral cease-fire in Pakistan's Bajur region, close to the Swat Valley. The local Taliban commander declared the cease-fire on the group's pirated FM radio station, reports Pakistan's Daily Times:

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on Monday announced a unilateral ceasefire and an end to resistance against security forces in Bajaur Agency. Speaking on their illegal FM radio, Bajaur TTP chief Faqir Muhammad said Pakistan was their country and its defence was their obligation.
He said the Taliban did not want war against the government and the army, but some elements were fuelling differences between them, adding that the Taliban did not attack government installations and schools.
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