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Taliban using mosques as 'recruitment centres'

April 13, 2009 15:16 IST

Having forcibly taken over Buner district adjoining Swat Valley, Taliban militants have begun using mosques in the area as "recruitment centres" to attract youths to join their ranks.

Almost all mosques in villages in Buner district are being used by the Taliban to recruit local residents for their cause of enforcing Sharia or Islamic law in the Malakand division, which includes Swat, and the rest of the country, media reports said on Monday.

The entry of Taliban into Buner, which is just about 100 km from the federal capital, has raised alarm throughout Pakistan as to the intentions of the Taliban. Armed bands of Taliban poured into Buner from neighbouring Swat and took control of the district after overcoming resistance from local tribesmen and officials.

The militants yesterday placed villages in Chamla sub-district of Buner "under their protection and faced no resistance from law enforcement agencies. Despite assurances to a tribal jirga last week that they would leave Buner, the militants have instead strengthened their hold on the district.

Maulana Khalil, a Taliban leader from Swat, addressed a congregation in a mosque in Malakpur village where he was welcomed by clerics and a large number of local residents. He urged youths to come forward and shoulder the responsibility for enforcing Sharia in their areas.

Khalil said the movement for enforcing Sharia in Malakand division had started 20 years ago but the peaceful campaign could not achieve results. Thus it had to be turned into an armed movement to enforce Sharia.

He also said the Tehrik-e-Taliban had to spread its message in the rest of Pakistan and youths must come forward to shoulder the responsibility in their own areas. Other Taliban commanders asked youths across Buner to join their group to take control of their own localities. They said the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan has roots within and outside the country.

Local residents too are trying to "adjust their lifestyles" in accordance with the diktats of the Taliban, who entered Buner more than a week ago. A large number of them met the Taliban commanders at Pir Baba's shrine in Sultanwas village, which is being used by militants as the base of their operations in Buner. Apart from the shrine of Pir Baba, Taliban have set up bases in Pacha Bazaar, Sultanwas, Bagra, Manyarai and Gokandin Buner.

Buner's District Coordination Officer Jawed Ahmad said: "We are in touch with their (Taliban) leaders in Swat. The situation will return to normal in a few days." Local residents had entered into an agreement with the Taliban in Swat through a tribal elders' council, he said.

Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
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