Fazlullah trapped: minister
By Syed Irfan Raza
ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Monday that Tehrik-i-Taliban Swat chief Maulana Fazlullah had been trapped by security forces.
The minister told reporters that the militant leader had been spotted and there was no question of his escape. “By and large we know the location where he is hiding.”
However, “nothing confirmed can be said at this stage without seeing his body,” Mr Malik said.
“But the question is that it is not one Fazlullah. There are many Fazlullahs who have to be eliminated,” he said.
On the other hand, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director-General Maj-Gen Athar Abbas said at a media briefing that he had no information about Fazlullah.
The interior minister also claimed that Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Baitullah Mehsud, against whom a military operation was in the offing, was still in the tribal area, refuting reports that he might have escaped to Afghanistan.
“We have information about where he is and we will not give him any chance to escape.”
He said a brother of Fazlullah had been injured during the operation in Swat and members of his family had been detained in Haripur.
He said the mid-level command of militants had almost been eliminated. “However, right now it is very difficult to give exact figures about their dead leaders.”
Mr Malik praised the armed forces for purging the Swat valley of militants.
He said the military’s special support group was working to restore infrastructure in cleared areas of Malakand division.
In reply to a question, the interior minister said most of the war-torn area in Malakand had been cleared and the displaced people would soon start returning home.
Ambiguity prevails about the whereabouts of the Swat Taliban chief and whether he has been hit during the operation.
There were speculations in the media about a month ago that he had been killed, but there was neither any official confirmation nor denial.