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Afghanistan | International

Pakistan's Taliban Militants Make New Inroads
by NPR (reposted)
Tuesday Dec 4th, 2007 7:33 AM
Tuesday, December 4, 2007 : As Pakistan has been gripped by political turmoil, another serious crisis has been unfolding in the northwest part of the country. Pro-Taliban extremists have been aggressively making inroads from the tribal areas along the Afghanistan border to towns and villages farther inside Pakistan.
The army says it has the militants on the run, but there are doubts about whether the Pakistan armed forces can keep them at bay.

When Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf imposed a state of emergency last month, he said it was because he needed to battle pro-Taliban forces that were creating mini-states in the tribal regions that border Afghanistan. Instead, Musharraf focused his efforts, and the country's security forces, on battling his political opponents.

Meanwhile, insurgents began pushing east into Pakistan, capturing towns and villages in the Swat Valley - a favorite tourist destination, less than 100 miles from the capital, Islamabad. Ser Fraz Khan, a professor of regional studies at Peshawar University, was stunned when he recently returned to his home village.

"I saw on the road around 400 militants carrying guns, every 10 yards, they were wearing black turbans," he said. "Their fingers were on the trigger, guns, Kalashnikovs or heavier... and I was scared, too scared.

Khan said at least 3,000 militants were around the town. As in several other places in the area, they had overrun the police station, and government offices. Black flags — a Taliban symbol — were flying from the buildings. They also began imposing a harsh form of Islamic law known as sharia. Video and CD shops were shut down, as were barber shops, and girls' schools, Khan said.

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