Pak forces closing in on Fazlullah: Malik
Last Updated: Sunday, September 13, 2009, 18:18
Islamabad: Pakistani security forces are closing in on Maulana Fazlullah, the commander of the Taliban in Swat, and he will not be able to escape, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Sunday.

"Fazlullah has definitely been surrounded by (our troops) and he will not be able to escape," Malik told reporters after meeting a group of ruling Pakistan People's Party leaders from the tribal areas.

A number of militant leaders from the north-western Swat valley had already been arrested and it was a matter of time before the security forces caught up with Fazlullah, Malik said.

Malik also issued a warning to banned Lashkar-e-Islam chief Mangal Bagh Afridi, saying he would meet the same fate as dozens of his fighters who had been killed or captured by security forces. The Lashkar-e-Islam is active in the Khyber tribal region.

"I am giving a warning to Mangal Bagh – you will suffer the same fate as your companions. Because of your criminal activities and attacks, we are closing in and tightening the noose around you," he said.

Reports from Swat suggested that troops have tightened the net around Fazlullah and his close aides following the recent arrest of Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan, who has provided information about hideouts used by the militant commander.

The people are opposed to Afridi because his militants are carrying out suicide bombings and attacks on the security forces, Malik said.

Swat has been abuzz with speculation since last night that security forces are close to capturing Fazlullah, who has been on the run since the army launched operations against the Taliban in the region in May.

There were also reports that Muslim Khan might have been arrested by security forces as part of a secret deal for his "negotiated surrender".

Khan reportedly resorted to the move to ensure that his kin were not subjected to reprisals by Fazlullah.

Pakistani security forces have also killed over 100 Lashkar-e-Islam militants in Khyber Agency since an operation was launched in the tribal region on September 1.

Bureau Report

First Published: Sunday, September 13, 2009, 18:18

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