Militants said on Saturday that they had captured two police stations in a mountainous region of northwest Pakistan. The area has increasingly fallen under the control of Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked extremists, bringing further embarrassment to President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's government.
A flag was hoisted over one of the buildings after it was abandoned by officers in the scenic Swat valley, a formerly popular tourist destination now plagued by fighting between paramilitary forces and Islamic militants, said Sirajuddin, speaking on behalf of the insurgents.
Hours later, militants took control of another police post 10 kms to the north, said Mian Rasool Shah, a Taliban commander, claiming his men had convinced 60 officers to leave and then locked the doors to prevent the looting of weapons. No government official was available to comment on the claims, which came a day after extremists paraded 48 men described as government troops who had decided to surrender. The men, who told journalists they no longer wanted to fight their Muslim brothers, were later released.
Adm. William Fallon, the chief of the US Central Command, met Musharraf and other top generals on Friday to discuss the situation in the northwest, where militants have expanded their reach beyond traditional tribal regions. US backs Musharraf as a bulwark in its war on terrorism. But a spokesman for the Pakistan army denied reports suggesting Fallon had offered to provide US troops to help tackle the insurgency in Swat.