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Pashtun Leader Warns Of Security Breakdown In Swat Valley

Many residents have fled the violence of teh Swat Valley
Many residents have fled the violence of teh Swat Valley
KABUL –- Pashtun anti-Taliban leader Afzal Khan, who lives in Pakistan's volatile Swat Valley, has told RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan that the police authority "has collapsed" in the region.

Khan said on February 3 that unless military authority is established in the Swat Valley, "we will have a revolution." He said that the violence is so pervasive that "going to the mosque is virtually the same as to going to the trenches."

Khan, 82, has survived numerous assassination attempts by the Taliban, and is thought to be at the top of the Taliban's latest hit list. He met recently with the head of the Pakistani military, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who told him that when it comes to stabilizing the region, military force is the "last option."

The Swat Valley, where for two years local Taliban have been trying to establish Shari'a law, is at the center of the Pakistan government's efforts to root out extremism. Pakistan is struggling to stem growing Islamist influence and violence in the northwest, but the Afghan government has accused it of failing to do enough to rein in Taliban and Al-Qaeda loyalists.

Meanwhile on February 4, Pakistani Taliban in the Swat Valley released 29 paramilitary soldiers and policemen they had captured in a raid on a police station.

The militants destroyed a police station in the village of Shamzoi, and captured the 29 men after a siege of more than 24 hours, police said earlier.

The released men -- the 23 members of the paramilitary Frontier Corps and six policemen -- were reportedly unharmed.

A Taliban spokesman, Muslim Khan, said the Taliban had released the captives after they had promised to quit their jobs and not act to against the militants.

The military says dozens of militants had been killed in recent days, but residents said about 40 civilians had also been killed, many in shelling and air attacks by government forces aimed at the militants.

With material from Reuters