Pakistani security forces have taken control of a militant stronghold in the restive northwestern Swat valley following an increase in activities by pro-Taliban rebels who had been lying low for several months.
The army, paramilitary Frontier Corps and local police on Thursday established a joint check post at Imamdheri, the former base of radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah who is currently on the run. The troops also arrested three militants in the town.
The check post was established after large numbers of armed militants began conducting marches in the area and making announcements over loudspeakers, asking people to attend Friday prayers to be led by commanders and radical clerics.
The security forces have intensified checking in Imamdheri, where Fazlullah had built a sprawling seminary and mosque that served as his headquarters. A curfew-like situation currently prevails in the town.
A security forces spokesman said the government wanted peace in Swat and will not allow anyone to disrupt law and order. He said the militants were “bent on sabotaging the dialogue” initiated by the government and this was why Imamdheri was taken over by the troops.
Fazlullah’s spokesman Sirajuddin threatened retaliation while the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, which is led by commander Baitullah Mehsud, said the government’s actions in Swat “did not bode well for peace”. Sirajuddin said the setting up of the check post after a peace deal between the militants and the government was unjustified. He warned of “disastrous” consequences if the security forces did not leave Imamdheri.