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Taliban defy Pak curfew to patrol town in Swat

Armed Taliban defied a government curfew and patrolled the main town in Pakistan's Swat district after rejecting an Islamic appeals court set up under a peace deal, witnesses said on Monday.

world Updated: May 04, 2009 11:11 IST

Armed Taliban defied a government curfew and patrolled the main town in Pakistan's Swat district after rejecting an Islamic appeals court set up under a peace deal, witnesses said on Monday.

The government of North West Frontier Province said Saturday that an Islamic appellate court had been created to serve the three million people who live in Malakand, which includes Swat, under a deal to end a Taliban-led insurgency.

But a Taliban spokesman rejected the new court, charging it had been created without adequate consultation, and condemned an ongoing military assault against Taliban fighters holed up in other districts of Malakand.

Authorities imposed a curfew from 6:00 pm to 9:00 am in Mingora, the main town in Swat, on Sunday for the first time since signing the February deal with pro-Taliban cleric Sufi Mohammad to try to end nearly two years of violence.

"We had concerns about the law and order situation, that is why the curfew was imposed," the head of the local administration, Khushhal Khan, said.

Residents said they saw armed Taliban patrolling the main roads in Mingora late Sunday despite the curfew.

"It is the first time that Taliban have again started armed patrolling in Mingora," one resident said, requesting anonymity.

"Do not give my name because the Taliban will find me and kill me," the frightened resident said.

"Once again fear is gripping the entire town."

Another resident said Taliban militants were "again taking up positions on top of buildings" in Mingora.

Security officials and police declined to comment when asked whether armed Taliban were patrolling in Mingora.

Pakistan in February agreed to let religious hardliners enforce Islamic law in Swat, once a popular ski resort, and the rest of Malakand in a bid to end the bloody Taliban uprising.

But instead of disarming as required under the deal, armed Taliban pushed further towards the capital Islamabad, taking over large swathes of other Malakand districts Lower Dir and Buner -- and prompting the latest offensive.

Pakistan's army announced Sunday that 80 militants have been killed so far in its offensive against the Taliban in Buner.