Breaking Ceasefire, Taliban Kidnaps Pakistan Officials

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MINGORA-- Yesterday Taliban militants kidnapped Pakistani officials in Swat valley, where the government is seeking peace by re-establishing Islamic sharia law.

Muslim Khan, a militant and spokesman for the Taliban, said that, "we have released the official and his six guards in exchange for our two colleagues."

Syed Mohammad Jawed, commissioner for the Malakand division, which includes Swat, confirmed that the official and his guards had been freed but refused to comment on any swap.

On Saturday Taliban fighters and Pakistani officials agreed to a "permanent ceasefire" in Swat, a senior Pakistani government official confirmed. But the same day in Peshawar, two Taliban fighters were arrested.

On Sunday Taliban fighters kidnapped the official. The Taliban claimed the arrests had violated their conditions for ordering a 10-day ceasefire in Swat on February 15.

The Pakistan government has backed a deal with radical cleric Maulana Sufi Mohammad to restore Islamic law to Swat and neighboring regions if the Taliban give up fighting.

But Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah, who is Sufi Mohammad's son-in-law, said there would be a decision announced after the current temporary ceasefire expires in the middle of this week.

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