The shrine of Sufi Saint Pir Baba in Buner.
(Swat)Taliban move into new Buner areas
BUNER, April 10: Instead of pulling out of Buner as they had announced on Thursday, the Taliban of Swat moved on Friday to consolidate their hold and took control of new areas, including the shrine of Sufi saint Pir Baba.
Security forces offered no resistance. “They have taken control of vast areas in Buner. They are freely moving around while police and other law-enforcement personnel remain confined to their posts,” said a man who lives near the shrine of Pir Baba. He said that the militants had earlier announced that they would leave after holding a march in various areas.
Local people said that the militants, who occupied houses of influential people organising an anti-Taliban lashkar, were still patrolling the road leading to Daggar, the district headquarters. The tribal elderswhose houses have been occupied included Syed Ahmed Khan, his cousins Mah Muneer Khan and Afsar Khan, the nazim of the Gadezai union council.
Militants set on fire TV sets, pictures and paintings and audio and video cassettes before the Friday prayers. They locked the shrine, stopping followers of Pir Baba from visiting the place. They also delivered sermons in village mosques.
“We have been asked by our seniors not to interfere with the Taliban,” said an officer of the Pir Baba police station. He said that the Taliban had advanced weapons, some of which he had “never seen before”. He said that so far they had not harmed anyone. “Their prime targets have already fled.”
A spokesman for militants in Sultanwas announced that people who had fled the area should return to their homes, but said those who had taken up arms against them would not be spared.Local people said that the militants had met hundreds of local people, especially the youths, who remained with them the whole day. The Taliban were also seen patrolling areas near Bhai Killey and Ghazikhanay and were using vehicles they had captured.
An official at the commissioner’s office in Saidu Sharif said on late Thursday night after talks with a peace mission that Taliban had agreed to leave Buner. However, sources privy to the talks between the militants, administration officials and a local jirga headed by Maulana Waliullah Kalbalgrami, said that no agreement had been reached. He said they had been allowed to “go anywhere” in Buner they wanted to.He said that the militants controlling the Sultanwas village had been told to occupy residences of the people who were part of the anti-Taliban lashkar.