Pakistan frees cleric who fought US in Afghanistan

Pakistan's new government on Monday released the founder of a pro-Taliban group which has been involved in insurgency in both Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan, an official said.

Pakistan frees cleric who fought US in Afghanistan
Sufi Mohammad, a cleric and leader of the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat Mohammadi (Movement for Implementation of Mohammad's Sharia Law), sent thousands of followers to fight U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan.

"The government has released Sufi Mohammad. He has renounced violence and assured the government he will continue his movement through peaceful means," said Sardar Hussain Babak, minister of information in North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

Many of Mohammad's activists, most of whom are ethnic Pashtuns from northwest Pakistan, were killed in Afghanistan and Mohammad was arrested in 2002 when he was returning to Pakistan.

After his arrest and detention, his son-in-law, Fazlullah, took over as leader of the group and over the past year he has led an insurgency in the Swat Valley in NWFP.

Mohammad, an elderly man with a long white beard, has been in poor health.

Analysts say his release appeared to be part of efforts by the new government to engage fighters in dialogue amid widespread resentment of the previous government's support for the U.S.-led attacks against fighters.

Many Pakistanis blame President Pervez Musharraf's staunch support for the U.S.-led occupations for provoking a wave of violence since the middle of last year.

Reuters
Last Mod: 22 Nisan 2008, 14:14
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