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Taliban have withdrawn from key district, officials say

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-04-25

Officials say Taliban fighters have withdrawn from Buner district, just 100 kilometres north-west of Islamabad, after seizing control of the area earlier this week. Taliban advances have caused mounting alarm in the US and Islamabad.

AFP - Taliban militants who moved into a northwest Pakistan district seeking to widen their control have withdrawn and the government deployed extra forces in the area, officials said Saturday.

Taliban fighters began retreating on Friday from Buner where the regional government vowed to shore up a controversial deal to enforce sharia law despite intensifying US pressure to stem Islamists' widening control.

"We have full control in the area and the Taliban have completely withdrawn," local administration official Javed Ahmad told AFP.

Ahmad was unable to give an exact number of Taliban who left but said they all returned to the neighbouring district of Swat and that paramilitary police were Saturday patrolling the streets.

A senior police official in Buner, Rasheed Khan, said that around 300 Taliban left but that local Taliban elements remained in the area despite the deployment of Frontier Constabulary (FC) reinforcements.

"There are some 250-300 troops deployed at different checkpoints in Buner," Khan told AFP.

The main Taliban spokesman in the area confirmed that all those who arrived in Buner from Swat had returned.

"I do not know the exact number of my men who left the area but they all boarded in 15 vehicles to return to Swat," Muslim Khan said.

He also confirmed that local Taliban members from Buner are still present in the area but did not disclose their number.


Date created : 2009-04-25