Pak Taliban leader Mehsud offers conditional talks

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Lahore, Feb.3 : Pakistan Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud has reportedly made a conditional offer to the government if the latter wants him to stop his aggressive activities.

According to a Geo News report, official sources were quoted as saying that Mehsud has told the government that he could halt terrorist actions if the key commanders and militants arrested by security forces were released.

Pakistan Senator Saleh Shah was quoted by the private television channel as saying that Mehsud had authorised him to negotiate with the government.

Shah said that he would discuss the matter with the government at NWFP Governor's House on Sunday.

The federal Interior Ministry, however, did not confirm or deny that contact had been made with Mehsud.

This development came even as security forces arrested five suspected militants from Mingora in the Swat region on Saturday.

Officials told the Daily Times by telephone that a man named Habibul Haq was apprehended on a checkpost in Khwazakhela. Haq is said to be a close aide of the rebel cleric Fazlullah.

Four more suspected militants were held on a checkpost in Fizza Ghat area.

All five have been arrested for suspected links to the militants and they will be interrogated.

According to an Interior Ministry report,militants have established four "major" and 14 "small hideouts" in four Swat areas.

It says that the majority of militants are hiding in Kabal, Khawanza Khola, Matta, and Minogra. The smaller hideouts are located in the 14 valley suburbs - Totano Bandi, Bagh Dehrai, Manja, Salanda, Sarkhorai, Manosar, Guli Bagh, Shakardara, Sambat, Namal Gat, Shawar, Pewchar, Chupriyal and Manglawar.

Law enforcement agencies have established 13 checkposts at strategic locations in these areas," the report said.

The Interior Ministry report further states that 104 incidents of bomb blasts and rocket and suicide attacks had taken place in Swat from January 1, 2007, to January 23, 2008.

The report said that 292 people - 195 officials from the army, the Frontier Constabulary, and police and 97 civilians - had been killed in the same period.

The ministry has made seven recommendations to improve the situation in the restive valley.

They are public mobilisation against militancy; an effective use of force; strengthening of law-enforcement agencies; a special development package for the Malakand region; compensation for the people affected by operations in Swat and Shangla districts; speedy justice through amendments to Nizam-e-Adle Regulation, 1999, and cleanup operations to flush out militants.

ANI

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