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Top Swat Taliban commander killed.

PESHAWAR: Pakistan s army Wednesday said it had killed a top aide of fugitive Swat Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah, as they continued their hunt for militant chieftains in the northwest valley.

Nisar, also known as Ghazi Baba, one of 15 Swat insurgents commanding a 10 million rupee (120,000 dollar) bounty offered by authorities in May, was killed in a clash just outside Swat s main town Mingora on Wednesday, the army said.

"Nisar, alias Ghazi Baba, was killed in an encounter. His son was arrested by the security forces," Mushtaq Khan, a spokesman for the army-run Swat Media Centre, told AFP by telephone.

Another security official based in the area said that a pre-dawn operation was launched in Matta town, about 25 kilometres (15 miles) northwest of Mingora, the main hub in the one-time tourist paradise of Swat valley.

The Swat Taliban were not immediately available to confirm the death, but residents in Matta told AFP by telephone that they had seen Baba s corpse. "We have seen his dead body. It was later taken by the security forces," a resident said, requesting anonymity for fear of militant reprisals.

Swat slipped out of government control after radical cleric Fazlullah rose up in July 2007, commanding thousands of followers who beheaded opponents, burnt schools and fought to enforce a harsh brand of Islamic law.

Fazlullah remains at large with a 50-million-rupee bounty on his head, but in September the military arrested four of his top aides in a sweep following a determined military assault to purge the Taliban threat in Swat.

Pakistan launched the blistering offensive against the Taliban after militants marched out of Swat and advanced to within 100 kilometers (60 miles) of the capital Islamabad in April.

The military says the area is clear and most of the two million people who fled their homes have returned, but sporadic outbreaks of violence continue, while some fear the Swat Taliban are regrouping elsewhere in the northwest.

Muscat Press and Publishing House SAOC 2009

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Publication:Times of Oman (Muscat, Oman)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Oct 7, 2009
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