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Pak arrests cleric who brokered Swat peace deal

world Updated: Jun 05, 2009 11:57 IST

Law enforcement agencies on Thursday arrested a radical cleric, who brokered a controversial peace deal between Taliban militants and authorities in Pakistan's north-western Swat district early this year, the police said.

Maulana Sufi Mohammad, his deputy Maulana Mohammad Alam, two sons and four close aides and were rounded up from Chakdara and Aman Darra areas of Dir district, which borders Swat valley.

"Yes, I can confirm that eight people, including Maulana Sufi Mohammad, have been arrested," said Dir's police chief Zaibullah Khan told the German Press Agency dpa over phone.

The hard-line cleric, Mohammad, mediated between the militants lead by his son-in-law Maulana Fazlullah, and the regional government to reach a peace deal in February under which the authorities agreed to set up Islamic courts in exchange for end to Taliban insurgency in the region.

Instead of observing the terms of the peace agreement, Islamist insurgents used the agreement to expand their control over the neighbouring districts.

The government scrapped the agreement on May 8 and announced a major offensive in Swat and its three adjoining districts, where according to the government claims more 1,250 Taliban have so far been eliminated and the troops have regained control over large areas.

Khan did not explain why Mohammad was arrested, but a local intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity said instead of staying neutral in the conflict the cleric was in constant contact with the fighters and some of his comrades were even giving directions to the Taliban.

"Maulana (Sufi Mohammad) has been flown by an army helicopter to Peshawar city where he will be investigated by the intelligence agencies," he said. Peshawar is the capital of North Western Frontier Province, where Swat is located.