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JeM militants fighting alongside Taliban in Swat valley

world Updated: May 08, 2009 16:19 IST

Members of the banned Jaish-e-Mohammed and militants from South Waziristan tribal region are fighting alongside some 5,000 Taliban fighters in Pakistan's restive Swat valley, chief military spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas said on Friday.

The military estimates there are about 4,000 to 5,000 militants in Swat and they have been joined by fighters from South Waziristan and "splinter groups of the Jaish-e-Mohammed" from Punjab, Abbas said a day after Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani called in the armed forces to eliminate terrorists and extremists.

The Taliban in Swat are "battle-hardy" militants who had learned from fighting the security forces over the past few years, Abbas told Dawn News channel.

Noting that the people had seen the "real face" of the Taliban in Swat in the recent past, he said: "The people have now realised that their agenda goes much beyond the Nizam-e-Adl (Regulation) or Shariah courts.

"They have a design to expand their objectives and therefore the reason for going into Buner and Dir (districts) was a manifestation of their design," he said.

Abbas was referring to militants from Swat advancing to Buner and Dir districts near the federal capital after the government implemented the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation, which envisages enforcement of Shariah in Malakand division.

Gilani on Thursday said that the militants were expected to lay down their arms to usher in peace after the enforcement of Shariah but had instead violated the peace deal in Swat by attacking security forces and moving into other areas.

Abbas said the government had acted against the militants only after going in for a reconciliation process and giving "maximum time" to the militants to fulfil their commitments under the peace deal.

The government had now achieved a "political victory" though the physical disarming of the militants remains to be achieved, Abbas said.

"We will go after the leadership (of the militants)...If we target the leadership, then it will give huge returns," he said.