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Taliban group issues ultimatum to Pak
January 03, 2008 16:54 IST
The Taliban group-led by Baitullah Mehsud, blamed by the Pakistan government for Benazir Bhutto's [Images] assassination, has warned that it will carry out attacks across the country if the military is not withdrawn from the restive northwestern Swat valley in two days.
The Tehrik Taliban-e-Pakistan, which was formed in December with Mehsud as its commander, has given the government two days to end military operations at Swat in the North West Frontier Province and pull out all security forces from the area.
It warned that it would 'expand its actions from Waziristan to Kohistan and settled districts' if its demand is not met.
Maulvi Muhammad Omar, a spokesman for the group, told the Dawn newspaper by telephone yesterday that an earlier deadline for withdrawing troops had lapsed in December, but the militants had not resumed their activities because the nation was mourning the killing of Bhutto.
"Now we extend the deadline for two days and ask the government to withdraw troops and halt the operation in Swat. Otherwise, we will attack the government everywhere and it will be an all-out war," he warned.
The Taliban and Mehsud have denied involvement in the attack on Bhutto in Rawalpindi on December 27. The government blamed Mehsud for masterminding the suicide strike on Bhutto and other political leaders.
In his address to the nation on Wednesday, President Pervez Musharraf [Images] blamed a series of suicide bombings across the country on Mehsud and Maulana Fazlullah, a pro-Taliban cleric from Swat, and their militants.
Omar also said his group was responsible for kidnapping four military personnel in South Waziristan and said troops were building new bunkers in the area for a possible operation against Mehsud.
Sources told The Dawn that former parliamentarian Maulana Merajuddin had reached Laddah, which has witnessed fierce clashes in the past few days, to negotiate the release of the four military personnel. At least 25 militants were killed in clashes near Laddah on Tuesday.
The sources also said that at least 22 tribesmen had been detained by authorities on the Tank-Wana road and 20 Mehsud tribesmen had been arrested on Tuesday in connection with the kidnapping of the soldiers.