‘Cops Taken Hostage, Target Killings, Extortion’: Taliban is Back in Pak’s Swat Valley | Exclusive – News18

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At least 400-500 militants are back in Swat district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in restive northwest Pakistan, following an understanding during the ongoing talks between the government and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Kabul, top sources told CNN-News18.

According to sources, the armed militants have captured the mountains and have started to extort local businessmen.

“Those refusing money are being threatened or killed,” said the source.

From taking policemen hostage to target killings, the Taliban militants are back to their old ways, said sources.

HOSTAGE DRAMA

A few days ago, the Taliban militants were intercepted by the police while entering Swat from Dir district bordering Afghanistan.

The clash led to four Pakistani police personnel, including a senior officer, being taken hostage.

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The Taliban handed over the hostages, including a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) of Matta, to the local jirga members after talks in the mountainous Peuchar valley of Swat district.

Locally called jirga, the meeting is a traditional gathering of influential people to discuss problems and settle differences by consensus.

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The TTP told local representatives that the Taliban was strictly following the ceasefire agreement reached during the peace talks held in Kabul, but the Pakistani security forces were targeting their members.

Commenting on a video on social media that shows Army officers and policemen taken hostage, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said, “Imran Khan loved them [the militants]. It is possible that they are being used by the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Imran Khan to form his government again.”

FEAR ON GROUND

Fear has gripped the Swat Valley, as the Taliban has taken control of areas in Matta tehsil, said sources. Reports from North Waziristan also claimed that a large number of militants are back.

Forces, including the Malakand Division, have withdrawn and only one unit is deployed in Swat. With the military gone, the local police will have to deal with the onslaught.

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On Tuesday, a militant spoke to a local journalist in Swat over the phone, claiming they have returned after instructions from the TTP leadership based on the peace talks in Kabul.

Locals, however, are protesting against the target killings.

THE PAKISTANI TALIBAN

The TTP, commonly known as the Pakistani Taliban, is a banned militant group based along the Afghan-Pakistan border. It has carried out a number of major attacks on Pakistani security personnel.

After several rounds of talks, the Pakistan government and the TTP in May agreed to extend a ceasefire indefinitely, while continuing negotiations to end the nearly two decades of militancy.

The TTP was set up as an umbrella group of several militant outfits in 2007. Its main aim is to impose its strict brand of Islam across Pakistan.

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The group, which is believed to be close to al-Qaeda, has been blamed for several deadly attacks across Pakistan, including an attack on the Army headquarters in 2009, assaults on military bases and the 2008 bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad.

Pakistan has been fencing the 2,600-km border with Afghanistan since 2017 to end terrorist infiltration and smuggling, despite intense opposition from the neighbouring country.

Besides a fence, the project includes the construction of border posts and forts and raising of new wings of the Frontier Corps, the paramilitary force that guards the border.

When the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan last year, Pakistan hoped that the new dispensation would deal with the terrorist groups. Despite promises, the Taliban has not yet taken a decisive action to fulfil their commitments, which has frustrated the Pakistan government.

The Taliban-led government in Afghanistan started to take steps to shift terrorist groups away from the regions bordering Pakistan in May, after a series of cross-border attacks that killed nearly a dozen Pakistani soldiers and prompted a strong reaction from Islamabad.

With Agency Inputs

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