Pakistani Taliban move closer to Islamabad
The militants have extended their reach into a district just 60 miles from Pakistan's capital.
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The Pakistani Taliban is moving closer to Islamabad, the capital, according to news reports. This week the militants advanced to within 60 miles of the capital, sparking concerns that their reach is growing.
A Pakistani Taliban-aligned group came to power in the Swat district of the North West Frontier Province in February, striking a controversial peace deal with Pakistani authorities. The deal allows, among other things, rule by a conservative interpretation of sharia law.
The terms of the sharia deal encompass Swat's neighboring districts, including Buner, which borders Punjab Province. However, the militants' power is more firmly established in Swat than in Buner. Reuters reports that militants arrived in Buner this week:
In a development that will deepen the West's concerns, scores of Taliban have moved into Buner district, 100 km (60 miles) northwest of Islamabad, from the Swat valley....
"About 20 vehicles carrying Taliban entered Buner on Monday and started moving around the bazaar and streets," said senior police officer Israr Bacha.
The locals in Buner district opposed the arrival of the militants, writes the Pakistani newspaper the Daily Times:
The officials told Daily Times that when tribal elders heard that Taliban had entered Buner, a grand jirga was held in the office of the Buner district coordination officer to devise a strategy to tackle the Taliban.
The jirga decided that prompt action must be taken against the Taliban and called on the people of Buner to take up arms to evict them from the district. They gave the Taliban one day deadline to leave the district, warning that the residents would otherwise be compelled to take action against them.
The police and armed civilians took up positions at Bhangra area to stop the Taliban from moving further into the district.
The insurgents refused to leave, so the locals decided to resist. They organized a type of tribal militia known as a lashkar and clashed with the Taliban, reports the Pakistani daily Dawn:
Three police officials, two Lashkar (militia) men and sixteen militants were killed in overnight clash between Taliban and Qaumi Lashkar in Buner district.... Following the battle, the Taliban took possession of the bodies of two Lashkar men and three police constables and even opened fire on Lashkar men when they tried to rescue the bodies early on Tuesday morning.