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Pakistan sacks more than 700 police after threats

world Updated: Sep 14, 2009 16:44 IST

Pakistani authorities sacked more than 700 police who failed to show up for work after they were threatened by a militant leader in the famed Khyber tribal region, an official said on Monday.

"A total of 715 Khasadar (tribal policemen) refused to report to duty after a threat by a militant leader. I have terminated their service," Tariq Hayat, the top administrative official in the tribal district, told AFP.

Until last week, there were about 2,500 tribal police in Khyber. Hundreds of them in the lawless district that borders Afghanistan were given 24 hours' notice to report but 715 failed to do so, the senior official said.

Authorities sacked 358 tribal policemen on Sunday and another 357 on Monday, Hayat said.

"All these refused to come to the office for duty," Hayat said, adding that he would advertise for new recruits.

Militant commander Mangal Bagh, who has ties to the Taliban, used a radio broadcast to threaten that lawmakers, army soldiers and paramilitary troops who did not resign would see their homes demolished and face other harsh penalties.

Hours after his speech on Thursday, militants blew up three houses belonging to Khasadars, residents said.

A suicide bomber killed 22 tribal policemen last month and on September 1, Pakistan launched a military offensive against Mangal's militant group Lashkar-e-Islam in Khyber, location of the fabled Khyber Pass into Afghanistan.

Khasadars are specially recruited tribesmen who bring local expertise to the job of tracking down militant centres and hideouts.

Militants from Pakistan's feared Tehreek-i-Taliban have adopted similar intimidation tactics in the northwest Swat valley. Hundreds of police deserted during a violent uprising launched two years ago.

The military says it has killed around 170 militants in Khyber but such tolls are impossible to confirm independently.

Khyber is on the main land and supply route through Pakistan into Afghanistan, where international forces are battling a Taliban insurgency.