Pakistan’s Taliban offer prisoner swap

June 22, 2010


PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Taliban militants in Pakistan’s northwest Tuesday offered the government a prisoner swap in return for 33 missing soldiers, threatening to kill the men if the proposal is rebuffed.

A Taliban spokesman told AFP that Pakistani authorities should “face the consequences” if they did not agree to the swap, calling for the details to be worked out in talks with tribal elders in Mohmand tribal district.

Security officials say 33 soldiers are still missing since the Taliban attacked a checkpost in a remote part of Mohmand along the Afghan border.

Six soldiers were killed in the attack and their bodies handed over to tribal elders last Thursday, officials said.

Another 25 soldiers strayed into Afghanistan after the clashes, but were handed back to Pakistani officials.

“Thirty-three soldiers are in our custody. We offer the government to exchange them in return of our colleagues,” Qari Ikramullah, a spokesman for Tehreek-e-Taliban in Mohmand, told AFP by telephone.

“We are in a state of war, we have no resources to keep them in our prison. The government should accept this offer or face the consequences,” he said.

“They will have to face death.”

Major Fazal-ur-Rehman, a spokesman for the paramilitary Frontier Corps, confirmed that 33 soldiers were missing but said authorities had received no offer of a swap with the Taliban.

“We have not received any such offer. If we do, then the government will make a decision on the offer,” he added.

Pakistani troops are fighting Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militant groups on multiple fronts across its sprawling tribal badlands, which Washington has described as the most dangerous place on Earth.

The rugged terrain lying outside direct government control is considered an Al-Qaeda headquarters and stronghold of militants plotting attacks on US-led troops fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

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