Pakistan’s Swat valley Taliban chief escapes to Afghanistan: Report

November 17th, 2009 - 9:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, Nov 17 (DPA) The leader of the Taliban militants in Pakistan’s northwestern Swat district, Maulana Fazlullah, said Tuesday that he had survived the military offensive and was now in Afghanistan.
Fazlullah told the BBC Urdu Service via cell phone from an undisclosed location in Afghanistan that his loyalists would soon “launch guerrilla raids against the army in Swat”.

Pakistani officials had previously claimed that Fazlullah was wounded and surrounded in Swat, a scenic valley located some 140 km north-west of Islamabad.

Fazlullah denied that he was mortally wounded. “I have reached Afghanistan safely,” the BBC Urdu quoted him as saying in a report on its website.

The hardline cleric launched an Islamist insurgency in Swat in mid-2007, with the aim of enforcing Islamic Sharia law and slowly expanded his control over the adjoining areas.

The seizure of Buner district, located less than 100 km north of Islamabad by Fazlullah’s fighters sent alarm bells ringing in the capital.

Thousands of ground troops moved into the area in late April and regained control of much of the region after intense fighting that eliminated more than 2,000 militants and dozens of soldiers.

Sporadic clashes still occur in the area and the news that Fazlullah is well and safe may be a major boost for his followers who could reassemble and launch bigger attacks on the security forces in the mountainous district.

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