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Pakistan arrests 'suicide bomb mastermind': military

world Updated: Sep 21, 2009 23:20 IST
AFP
Peshawar

Pakistan on Monday arrested a badly wounded Taliban commander and alleged mastermind of suicide bombers in the northwest Swat valley, the military said.

Mohammad Nasim Shah, known by his alias Abu Faraj, was arrested during a Pakistani security operation in which he was badly wounded on the first day of the Muslim festival Eid al-Fitr, officials said.

Abu Faraj used to train bombers for suicide missions and was close to Taliban Swat cleric Maulana Fazlullah, who led thousands of followers in a two-year uprising to enforce Islamic law in the former tourist district.

The military announced the arrest of the commander as an "Eid gift from the army for the people of Swat".

Colonel Akhtar Abbas said Abu Faraj was an expert in making suicide jackets and training people to carry out attacks. He was trained in Afghanistan, where the Taliban are fighting against Western troops, Abbas said.

Officials said he was also an expert in preparing improvised-explosive device attacks and was also wanted in connection with two bank robberies.

Monday's arrest was the fourth high-profile detention over the last 10 days in Swat, where the military are effectively in charge after a blistering campaign designed to crush the Taliban this summer.

Swat had slipped out of government control after Fazlullah rose up in July 2007, commanding thousands of followers -- who beheaded opponents, burnt schools and fought with security forces.

Pakistan launched the operation in Swat, and neighbouring districts Buner and Lower Dir after militants advanced to within 100 kilometres (60 miles) of the capital Islamabad in April.

Pakistan says over 2,100 militants and more than 177 security personnel were killed in the offensive but the tolls are impossible to verify independently.

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