Pakistani authorities have swapped four Taliban fighters, including a deputy of militant commander Baitullah Mehsud, for 10 security personnel under a deal brokered by tribal elders.
Maulvi Rafiuddin, the deputy of Mehsud, and the three other Taliban militants were exchanged for eight soldiers and two paramilitary personnel at Thal in the restive Hangu district of the North West Frontier Province on Wednesday night, media reports said today.
The exchange of prisoners followed talks between the local administration and the Taliban that were facilitated by the Hangu peace jirga of tribal elders.
Rafiuddin and his companions were arrested in Hangu on July 9. His arrest had sparked a major confrontation between the Taliban and the security forces. Nearly 300 Taliban fighters briefly besieged the police station where Rafiuddin was held and took about 15 security personnel hostage before additional paramilitary troops were rushed to the area.
The Taliban later kidnapped more civilians and security personnel to press for Rafiuddin's release. Three of the kidnapped men were murdered. A military operation that was subsequently launched in Hangu left 13 paramilitary personnel and a number of militants dead.
The Taliban continued to mount pressure on the government for Rafiuddin's release by kidnapping 30 police recruits in Aurakzai Agency. The militants gave the government one week to release Rafiuddin and when this was not done, they killed two recruits.