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BUNER, April 8 After consolidating their hold on Swat, militants in the valley have ventured into the adjacent Buner region and rejected calls by the local Qaumi Jirga to leave the district.

The militants advanced from Gokand valley and occupied the village of Kalabatt, about two kilometres from Pacha Bazar, a police post in Bagra and a government school.

They have set up a base camp in the area at a place about just four kilometres from the district headquarters of Daggar.

The Taliban handed over the bodies of two Lashkar men and three police personnel they had killed in a clash on Tuesday to a third party after talks with prominent cleric Maulana Waliullah Kabalgrami. They set on fire a number of houses and occupied the petrol pump owned by a leader of the Qaumi Lashkar.

A large number of people were seen leaving the village of Sultanwas.

Elders of a local jirga and officials of the district administration held talks with the Taliban through a reconciliatory committee also comprising leaders of Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat Muhammadi to persuade them to leave the area. But the militants said they had been told by the Tehrik-i-Taliban leadership to stay in the area.

A Taliban commander said they would leave the area after holding a peace march and visiting homes of six Taliban killed in a clash in Shalbandi.

Malakand commissioner Mohammad Javed Khan, Taliban commander Mehmood Khan, TNSM`s deputy chief Maulana Mohammad Alam and district chief Maulana Salar had visited Gokand on Tuesday but failed to resolve the crisis. They also held talks with Taliban commander Rizwan Bacha.

Sources said the Taliban had set up their headquarters in Buner and they were in no mood to leave the district.

As a last effort to avoid bloodshed, a delegation of local clerics led by Maulana Waliullah held talks with elders of the Quami Jirga at Madressah Taleem-ul-Quran in Daggar. The meeting continued till late in the night. Maulana Waliullah earlier had a meeting with Taliban commander Rizwan Bacha in Gokand.

Reuters adds A Taliban commander said the Pakistani military and the United States were colluding in US drone attacks and militants would take their war to Islamabad in response.

“About 20 vehicles carrying Taliban entered Buner on Monday and started moving around the bazaar and streets,” said senior police officer Israr Bacha.

Villagers formed a lashkar to confront the Taliban and eight of the insurgents were killed in a clash on Tuesday, police said.

Two villagers and three policemen were also killed.

“People don`t like the Taliban,” Ghulam Mustafa, deputy chief of Buner, told Reuters by telephone.

Muslim Khan, a Taliban spokesman in Swat, was defiant.

“What law stops us going there?” he said. “Our people will go there and stay there as long as they want.”