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Pakistan troops shell suspected Taliban bases: military

Pakistan forces on Monday pounded suspected militant hideouts after the Taliban suspended talks with the government over the Swat valley, the military said.

world Updated: Apr 27, 2009 15:36 IST

Pakistan forces on Monday pounded suspected militant hideouts after the Taliban suspended talks with the government over the Swat valley, the military said.

Paramilitary troops and helicopter gunships bombed the suspected bases in Lower Dir for the second day running, a military official said. "Helicopter gunships targeted different militant hideouts but there were no immediate reports of any casualties," the official said on condition of anonymity.

The Taliban had earlier suspended talks with the government demanding the army halt its latest operation against militants in which around 30 insurgents have been killed, Ameer Izzat Khan, a spokesman for a cleric who negotiated a peace deal between the two sides, said.

The talks were aimed at restoring peace in the Malakand region, which includes the district of Swat, after Taliban fighters infiltrated nearby Buner town despite the peace deal signed with the provincial government in February.

The government had insisted the militants lay down their arms after it agreed to implement Islamic justice system in the region. Interior ministry chief Rehman Malik accused the militants of violating the deal.

The Pakistan military, under US pressure to stop the advance of the extremists in the region, launched its offensive against Taliban militants in the northwest of the country on Sunday. "Our council of leaders met on Sunday night and decided to suspend peace negotiations with the government in North West Frontier Province," Khan said.

"We, however, still adhere to the February deal," that put three million people under sharia law, he told AFP.
Despite the deal Taliban militants on Monday took control of a telephone exchange in Behrain town, 30 kilometres (18 miles) north of Swat valley, police officials said.

"About 30 armed Taliban took control of a telephone exchange in Behrain on Monday morning," a police official said on condition of anonymity.

Another police official confirmed the incident, saying the militants were still in control of the exchange.
The military said Sunday that Frontier Corps paramilitary launched an operation against the Taliban in Lower Dir after militants killed a soldier in an ambush.

It said a "number" of militants had been killed and that the dead bodies of at least 26 insurgents had been found.
Lower Dir is 75 kilometres west of Swat, once a popular ski resort frequented by Westerners but where the government has effectively lost control after a violent two-year Taliban campaign to enforce sharia law.