Taliban extend hold, advance near Pakistan capital

April 23, 2009 04:38

Taliban militants have extended their grip in northwestern Pakistan, pushing out from a valley where the government has agreed to impose Islamic law and patrolling villages as close as 60 miles (100 kilometers) from the capital. Police and officials appear to have fled as armed militants also broadcast radio sermons and spread fear in Buner district, just 60 miles from Islamabad, officials and witnesses said Wednesday. Pakistan's president signed off on the peace pact last week in hopes of calming Swat, where some two years of clashes between the Taliban and security forces have killed hundreds and displaced up to a third of the one-time tourist haven's 1.5 million residents. Critics, including in Washington, have warned that the valley could become an officially sanctioned base for allies of al-Qaida - and that it may be just the first domino in nuclear-armed Pakistan to fall to the Taliban.

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