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Pak swaps militants for arms with Taliban

world Updated: Jun 08, 2010 13:40 IST

Pakistani authorities have released 20 Taliban militants in exchange for vehicles and weapons the terrorists had seized during an ambush on an army convoy in the volatile North Waziristan tribal region.

The militants were released after a 'jirga' or council of tribal elders and clerics brokered a truce on Monday between the security forces and a Taliban faction led by Hafiz Gul Bahadur, 'The News daily' reported today.

The authorities released 20 of 54 Taliban men they had detained in the area and also agreed to remove some check posts that the militants and local tribesmen had objected to.

In return, the Taliban released some vehicles, arms and ammunition that they had captured after attacking the army convoy in Hamzoni area on April 23. At least seven soldiers, including an officer, were killed in the ambush.

The attack had strained relations between the authorities and the Taliban faction led by Bahadur, who had signed a peace deal with the government in 2007.

Following the attack, authorities imposed curfew on the key Miranshah-Dattakhel road and launched a crackdown on the Hamzoni tribe under the archaic Frontier Crimes Regulation.

According to this British-era law, action is taken against an entire tribe if one of its members is linked to a criminal act. Over 50 tribesmen, including Taliban fighters, were arrested by the authorities.

The report said there had been an improvement in the situation following the truce brokered on Monday by the jirga.

Sources privy to the working of the jirga were quoted as saying that militant leader Bahadur had promised that his men would not confront the government.

Bahadur also said his fighters would be responsible for protecting security forces if he was informed in advance about the movement of their convoys in his area.

The daily quoted sources as saying that Bahadur's pledge of remaining peaceful enabled a large military convoy to travel from Miranshah to Gharlamay Fort near the border with Afghanistan.