Tuesday, May 05, 2009

SWAT RESIDENTS URGED TO EVACUATE

Pakistani Taleban member
The Taleban have not yet heeded calls to disarm

A senior Pakistani official has urged residents to evacuate the troubled Swat valley in the north-west.

Head of local administration Khushal Khan said the authorities were lifting a curfew so that people could leave areas near the main town of Mingora.

Earlier this year, Taleban militants operating in the Swat region agreed a peace deal with the government.

A BBC correspondent in Islamabad says the latest moves indicate the army is preparing an assault on Swat militants.

In recent weeks the Taleban have expanded their operations into neighbouring areas, putting the peace agreement under intense pressure.

Residents of Qamber, Amankot, Makanbagh and Rahimabad, all areas adjoining Mingora, will be accommodated in a relief camp set up by the authorities in the neighbouring district of Mardan, Mr Khan said.

A curfew which is currently in place has been relaxed between 1330 and 1900 local time (0730-1300 GMT) to allow to people to leave their homes.

Mr Khan added that residents were being asked to leave for their own safety as the Taleban had increased patrols in those areas and set up entrenched positions.

The militants fought the army in the region from August 2007 until this year's deal.

Under the deal the Taleban were expected to disarm.

The Taleban say they will not lay down their arms until Islamic Sharia law is fully implemented in Swat.

They have banned the playing of music in cars and are also using mosques to invite local youth to join them.

They have also started regular patrols in the district.

BBC NEWS REPORT.

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