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Cornered Taliban leader blows himself up

Nirupama Subramanian



Abdullah Mehsud

ISLAMABAD: A prominent Pakistani Taliban leader blew himself up on Tuesday to avoid arrest, security officials said.

Abdullah Mehsud killed himself with a grenade after security forces surrounded a house in Zhob, close to the Afghanistan border in Balochistan, on information that he was living there, an Interior Ministry spokesman told journalists.

Three others who were in the house were arrested, police officials said.

Mehsud (31), spent two years in Guantanamo Bay, and soon after his release in March 2004, was accused of kidnapping two Chinese engineers working in Waziristan.

His death comes at a time when U.S. officials have refused to rule out military strikes against Al-Qaeda “safe havens” inside Pakistani territory, mounting pressure on Islamabad to show results.

Pakistan has said any attacks on its territory by foreign forces are “unacceptable” and that it is fully capable and determined to handle the threat of militancy and said it would welcome “actionable intelligence” from the U.S. on Al-Qaeda bases.

Series of clashes

The Pakistan military has said it killed at least 30 militants in a series of clashes in the frontier areas since Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Government maintains that it stands by its “comprehensive” strategy of making peace agreements with tribal militants, an approach that U.S. President George Bush said had failed, adding that President Pervez Musharraf had also recognised its failure. Efforts are still on to salvage the peace deal in North Waziristan, which the tribal militants of the region tore up last week accusing the Government of violating the terms of the September 2006 agreement, by deploying additional troops.

A Government-backed jirga or peace committee of tribal elders and parliamentarians from the region has been shuttling between North Waziristan and the North West Frontier Province Governor, Lt. General Ali Mohammed Jan Aurakzai, car rying proposals and counter-proposals.

On Tuesday, the jirga travelled back to North Waziristan with proposals from the Governor.

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