Friday, April 24, 2009

Pakistani Forces Deploy in New Region Infiltrated by Taliban

Militants in Pakistan have ambushed paramilitary forces who were being
rushed to a region near the capital that was recently overrun by
Taliban forces from the nearby Swat valley. Witnesses say gunmen in
Buner district, killed at least one of the paramilitary troops.
Despite the latest clashes, political leaders say they continue to
favor diplomacy in dealing with the militants.

Troops take up key positions

Locals in Buner district, which is only about 100 kilometers from the
Pakistani capital, say security forces began arriving Wednesday,
taking up positions around government buildings and key roads. It is
unclear how many additional forces have been ordered to Buner. Local
officials say as many as eight platoons, or about 400 paramilitary
troops have arrived in the mountainous region.

Sher Akbar, a retired lawmaker who represented Buner in parliament,
tells VOA that Taliban fighters are now patrolling parts of the
district and local police have not been seen in public.

Taliban controls Buner

Speaking by phone from Buner he says the Taliban are totally in
control of the district and the local government has lost authority
over the region.

Pakistani news media have reported government officials and aid groups
have abandoned local offices. Sher Akbar says many in Buner are
worried that fighting could break out soon between security forces and
militants, and some people are preparing to leave.

Groups of militants infiltrated Buner last week, shortly after the
government signed a peace deal to establish Islamic law in nearby Swat
valley and other parts of the northwest. Local officials estimate more
than 500,000 people live in the Buner area.

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