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12 militants arrested; illegal radio back

world Updated: Mar 21, 2008 14:39 IST

At least 12 militants were arrested on Friday by security forces in northwest Pakistan's troubled Swat valley, where an illegal radio station run by a radical cleric resumed broadcasts after remaining off the air for nearly three months.

The 12 militants, including a top commander, were arrested during a search operation by security forces in the Kabal and Matta sub-districts of Swat, reports reaching in Islamabad said.

Illegal radio equipment and several fake passports were also seized from the militants.

Army officials said the radio equipment was being used to broadcast messages to militant commander Maulana Fazlullah, whose illegal radio station also resumed broadcasts after a gap of nearly three months.

"The FM radio station has been broadcasting Fazlullah's speeches for the past three days but it has not yet been fully active," a government official told BBC seeking anonymity.

The official said the government had improved the signal strength of the state-run Swat Radio to disrupt and jam the frequency of Fazlullah's broadcasts.

Locals said Fazlullah's fiery speeches were not audible because of the disruption by the state-run radio station. "An unknown person starts to make a speech loudly at exactly the same moment when Fazlullah delivers his speech, thus making Fazlullah's words inaudible," according to a local resident.

Official sources said the illegal radio station had resumed its broadcasts from Matta sub-district. They said its exact location was being ascertained.

Security forces are conducting a major operation in Swat against the militant followers of Fazlullah, also known as "Mullah Radio" for his fiery sermons broadcast from his illegal radio station. Over 300 militants have been killed by troops in Swat since November last year.