Pakistan threatens Taliban with ‘dire consequences’ (Second Lead)

May 17th, 2009 - 8:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, May 17 (IANS) Pakistan Sunday warned the Taliban of “dire consequences” if they didn’t lay down arms as the military said its operations against the militants in the country’s restive northwest had “entered into a new phase”.
“The Taliban should lay down their arms or prepare themselves for dire consequences,” Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters after visiting relief camps in Mardan that have been set up for civilians fleeing the fighting in Swat and two other districts of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

“If the Taliban want to serve Islam and work for the betterment of Pakistan, I ask them to lay down arms. This time, I mean business,” Malik added.

According to Malik, the military operations in Swat were “moving in the right direction and was in accordance with a set plan”.

He said the Lower Dir and Buner districts were under the total control of the government and the displaced people from these areas could return home.

On its part, the military said Operation Rah-e-Rast launched against the Taliban April 26 had “entered into a new phase” and that 25 militants had been killed in the 24 hours to Sunday afternoon.

Some 1,000 Taliban fighters have been killed the operations began, initially in Lower Dir district and then in Buner and Swat districts.

Close to one million civilians have been displaced by the fighting in these districts.

The security forces had surrounded and entered the towns of Matta and Kanju in Swat to “eliminate” terrorists from the area, an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement said.

“People are requested to distance themselves from miscreants-terrorists and their strongholds/hideouts and extend full support to troops in identifying and targeting them,” the statement said.

“Security forces, with the help of the local population, will not only clear, secure and hold the area, but will make sure that miscreants-terrorists are chased and killed to avert any possibility of their return. This will only be possible when people rise against them,” it added.

The military went into action after the Taliban reneged on a controversial peace accord with the NWFP government and moved south from their Swat headquarters to occupy Buner, which is just 100 km from Islamabad.

Under the accord, Sharia laws were to be imposed in Swat, Lower Dir, Buner and four other districts of the NWFP in return for the Taliban laying down their arms.

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