Saturday, May 30, 2009

39 Taliban arrested among IDPs

ISLAMABAD: Police have arrested 39 suspected Taliban fighters hiding among Internally Displaced persons (IDPs) from a military offensive against militants from Pakistan’s Swat Valley region, a senior officer said yesterday.
The arrests, made in the past few days, were the first of alleged militants among more than 2 million people who have fled the fighting.
Syed Akhtar Ali Shah said the 39 suspects had shaved off the beards that many conservative Muslims consider a sign of piety.
Officials had previously warned that fleeing insurgents may try to take refuge among civilians.
One dozen of the suspected Taliban were arrested in IDPs camps south of the Swat region, while the others were picked up in houses where refugees were staying with relatives or were renting, said Syed Akhtar Ali Shah, the police chief in Mardan, a town that hosts some of the roughly one dozen camps.
“These Taliban have mixed up themselves among the refugees,” Shah told a reporter by telephone.
They had cut their hair short and shaved their beards in a bid to disguise themselves from authorities and blend in with civilians, he said. Many conservative Muslims believe men should grow their hair and beards long as a sign of piety.

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