ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday November 4, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 23

Pro-Taleban militants seize 120 Pak policemen, troops

MATTA, Pakistan, Saturday (AFP) - Islamic militants took 120 police and paramilitary soldiers hostage overnight in northwest Pakistan but released them today after disarming them, a rebel spokesman said. The men were seized in the town of Matta in the scenic Swat valley in Northwest Frontier Province after militants besieged their post late Friday.

An armed militant supporter of Maulana Fazlullah, a hard line cleric, stands guard yesterday outside a captured police station in Matta near Mingora, the main town of Pakistan's Swat district bordering Afghanistan.

“Around 120 policemen and paramilitary soldiers surrendered after they were surrounded,” spokesman Sirajuddin said. “We released them today because they agreed to return to their homes and not to fight with Muslim brothers,” the spokesman, who goes by one name only, told AFP.

“Our mujaheddin (holy warriors) are in control of the police station.” It was the second time in a week militants loyal to pro-Taleiban cleric Mullah Fazlullah have taken security personnel captive. Earlier, 48 men said to be paramilitary soldiers were seized by extremists in Khawazakhela town and released after parading them before media on Friday.

Provincial authorities denied the first incident but declined comment on the latest capture of security men. An AFP correspondent witnessed masked men brandishing assault rifles, rocket launchers and traditional curved Swati swords set up checkposts in Matta and Khawazakhela.

The government moved 2,500 troops into Swat last week to counter Fazlullah, who is also known as “Mullah Radio” for his speeches on his private radio station, in which he calls for a holy war on the authorities. Officially more than 150 militants have been killed in clashes with security forces in the past week.

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