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KHAR, Oct 15: A curfew was clamped on Khar town on Wednesday as fresh troops arrived in the region amid reports that a major offensive was being planned in Charmang and Mamond subdivisions.

Sources said the political authorities had imposed the curfew because of movement of troops.

Security forces blew up houses of two wanted militant ‘commanders’, Liaquat Yousaf and Iqbal, in Khar.

Officials claimed that 18 militants were killed and several others wounded in air strikes and artillery shelling in Charmang, Chinar, Kohi Babara, Tangi and Rashakai areas.

Meanwhile, clashes between a tribal lashkar and militants continued in Charmang. The lashkar also intensified its campaign in Nawagai near the Afghan border.

Local Taliban’s spokesman Maulvi Omar denied government’s claim that 500 to 1,000 insurgents had been killed in the military operation and said that only 17 of his men had been killed so far.

He claimed that the militants were holding their positions and offering stiff resistance.

He also claimed that the Taliban had killed 110 troops and 250 paramilitary soldiers and captured 46 personnel.

He denied that foreign fighters were operating in the area.

Maulvi Omar, who had been underground for more than two months, resurfaced on Wednesday and contacted local journalists on phone.

He said the Taliban were ready to hold talks with the government, but without disarming themselves.

“A threat is looming large on our western borders and, therefore, Taliban can’t disarm themselves unless the occupation forces leave Afghanistan,” he told Dawn. He said the US had announced that it was increasing the number of its troops in Afghanistan and, therefore, it was not possible for Taliban to lay down weapons.

He said Taliban would continue their struggle until Nato withdrew its forces, Islamabad changed its pro-US policies and Pakistan became a sovereign state.

However, BBC in a report from Islamabad quoted Maulvi Omar as saying that the militants were willing to lay down their arms if the military ceased operations against them.

“We are willing to negotiate with the government without any conditions,” he said.

“We are also willing to lay down our arms once the military ceases operations against us.”

Maulvi Omar also said that the local Taliban did not want foreign militants in the region and would help the government to remove them.

“We can set up a shura committee to liaise with the authorities in removing such people,” he said.

Maulvi Omar said it was useless to debate the security situation in parliament without taking the Taliban into confidence.

“What is the use of discussing the situation without talking to us?” he asked.