Islamist fighters killed a policeman and wounded three on Friday in a gunbattle in northwest Pakistan, where violence has resurged after a Taliban leader withdrew from peace talks brokered by tribal elders.
Pakistan had suffered a wave of suicide attacks and bomb blasts following an army assault on a radical mosque in Islamabad in July last year, but there was a lull in the violence after a new government, made up of parties opposed to President Pervez Musharraf, came to power in late March.
The new government said it would negotiate to bring peace to the region along the border with Afghanistan, and is trying to use influence with the fiercely independent tribes living there to quell the Taliban insurgency.
The focus is on Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, based in South Waziristan. Mehsud's notoriety soared after Pakistani and U.S. intelligence made him prime suspect in the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, whose Pakistan People's Party leads a four-party coalition government.
The Taliban leader announced a ceasefire last month but later pulled out of talks after the government refused to accept his demand that the army withdraw troops from Mehsud tribal lands.
On Tuesday, a suicide bomber killed three people, including a policeman, in the town of Bannu, near North Waziristan,
On Thursday, troops blocked the main road leading to South Waziristan after Mehsud's fighters set up their own checkposts.
The same night, militants in faraway Swat, at the easterly end of the tribal belt in North West Frontier Province, attacked a police station, killing one policeman and wounding another.
They also torched two girls' schools in the scenic alpine valley, which had been a popular tourist destination before an armed uprising, led by a radical cleric who wants impose Taliban-style law, erupted late last year.
The firefight on Friday occurred when security forces raided two militant strongholds in Swat.
"One policeman was martyred in the operation. But our search operation is going on and we have, so far, arrested 14 suspects," a military official in Swat told Reuters.
A bomb also exploded near the security forces but caused no casualties.
Last November, the army launched an offensive in Swat and hundreds of people have been killed since th