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Disagreements, Fighting Threaten Swat Peace Deal

Boys collect books from the rubble of a school allegedly destroyed by Islamic militants in Mingora, the main town in the Swat Valley region.
(RFE/RL) -- A peace agreement that brought a tenuous peace to Pakistan's Swat Valley appears to be unraveling with the Taliban staging fresh attacks and resuming patrols in the area.

At least one Pakistani soldier was killed and another injured when Taliban forces attacked a military convoy in Swat Valley on May 4. And despite a government-ordered curfew, the Taliban resumed armed patrols in Mingora, the region's main town.

Such moves may prove fatal to the already shaky peace deal worked out in February in Swat and the neighboring districts of the Malakand region. Under the terms of the arrangement, the Pakistani government established Shari'a courts in those areas in exchange for the Taliban agreeing to a cease-fire.

Pakistani media has quoted self-described Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan as saying that the peace agreement is over.

Meanwhile, Maulana Sufi Mohammad, a hard-line Islamic leader in Malakand who was key in brokering the peace deal, has rejected the announcement that an Islamic appellate court has been set up.

Mohammad and his Movement for the Enforcement of Shari'a were expected to play a large role in convincing his son-in-law and local Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah to give up the insurgency, and the formation of an appeals court was the last legal measure required to fully implement the law that resulted from the February peace agreement.

With the breakdown of the peace deal, observers suggest the Taliban will now take the opportunity to expand their reach.

Even with the deal in place, the Taliban had in the past month extended their control to areas neighboring Swat -- the districts of Dir and Buner, both of which are within Malakand region and thus part of the peace agreement.

Fresh Military Offensive

The deteriorating security situation in the two districts and international alarms over the Swat peace deal had pushed the Pakistani military to launch a fresh military offensive against the Taliban last week.

On April 3, Brigadier General Fayyaz Mehmood Qamar, in charge of the military offensive in Buner, told journalists that the Taliban in the region would be defeated within a week.

He said that the military offensive in Buner has so far killed 80 militants, including 27 would-be suicide bombers, but that some Pakistani and Afghan militants -- believed fighting alongside fighters from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan -- were putting up stiff resistance.

Major General Tariq Khan, who heads the paramilitary Frontier Corps, claimed on May 3 that his forces has secured a major road leading to Daggar, the administrative headquarters of Buner.

While the military and the militants engage in battles and rounds of accusations and counteraccusations, locals continue to suffer. Fighting in Dir and Buner has so far forced more than 50,000 people to flee their homes.

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