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Pakistani Police Detain Pro-Taliban Cleric

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) -- Pakistani police have detained pro-Taliban cleric Sufi Mohammad, accusing him of helping militants in the country's northwest and sabotaging the government's fight against them, an official has said.

Mohammad helped broker a deal between the government and the Taliban in February to end violence in the northwest Swat Valley, but the pact collapsed after militants refused to lay down arms and began expanding their influence in nearby districts.

Security forces subsequently launched an offensive against the militants in Swat and nearby districts nearly three months ago, as the Taliban's advances raised concerns about the stability of the U.S. ally and the safety of its nuclear weapons.

"We have detained him as his activities could disturb the law and order situation and after an inquiry we'll file cases against him," said Mian Iftikhar Hussain, information minister of the Northwest Frontier Province.

"He has been involved in activities which help militancy and militants and sabotage government efforts to combat them," he told a news conference in Peshawar.

Taliban Vow To Fight On

Mohammad is the father-in-law of Swat Taliban commander Fazlullah, whose spokesman said last week he was alive and unhurt, contrary to earlier reports by the military that he was injured.

The spokesman, Muslim Khan, vowed the Taliban would continue to fight on in Swat.

The military says it is in the final stages of its operation in Swat and has started helping to bring the roughly 2 million people displaced by the fighting back to their homes.

However, security forces continue to face pockets of resistance, and critics say few militant leaders have been eliminated, making it more likely they will be able to regroup.

The military says it has killed nearly 1,800 militants since the Swat offensive began. Independent estimates are unavailable.