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Swat cleric ‘ends’ peace deal

September 22, 2007


SWAT, Sept 21: Cleric Maulana Fazlullah, known for preaching extremist religious views, announced on Friday that he was terminating his four-month-old peace agreement with the government because of the arrest of his three colleagues and warned that his supporters would soon hit their ‘assigned’ targets.

The cleric gained prominence in some circles after he started preaching his extremist views on an FM radio station from his native Imam Dehri village.

He said that his innocent supporters had been arrested and threatened a tit-for-tat response, taking law-enforcement personnel hostage. Before his sermon on Friday, Fazlullah addressed a gathering in his seminary and his audience included women in nearby homes. People, who attended the Friday prayers at the seminary, said most of his supporters carried heavy weapons.

Police arrested Akber Saeed Khan from Dir and Alamgir and Qari Sohail from Charbagh in Swat on Thursday after an explosion at the Pak-Austrian Institute for Tourism and Hotel Management. Two policemen were killed and four other were injured in the incident.

Initially, Maulana Fazlullah had set the Thursday night deadline for the release of his supporters, but changed it twice. The termination of the peace deal was announced after Friday prayers.

Addressing his inner circle of associates the cleric said he would soon make another ‘important announcement’. He said that because of the government’s action he was no longer bound by the agreement reached with the district administration in May.

He said that after the agreement, he and his supporters had been keeping a ‘low profile’ and he had stopped propagating his views on radio. But now, he added, he would not be responsible if any incident took place in the valley.

It may be mentioned that violence intensified in the Swat valley after the signing of the agreement, especially in Matta tehsil. Apart from bomb blasts in various areas, four suicide bombings have taken place during the period.

Nine of Maulana Fazlullah’s supporters were arrested after the Friday sermon. A police party stopped their vehicle and took them into custody. Later, officials told this correspondent that the DSP concerned had ordered their release.