Taliban agrees to leave two strongholds in Pakistan
Taliban insurgents in Pakistan's northwestern district of Lower Dir have reportedly agreed to leave two of the strongholds they captured in early April.
The Taliban agreed to abandon their camps and pull out of the Asbanr and Gulabad areas within the next two days, Dawn News reported Friday.
The assurance was given to a tribe council late Thursday at a joint gathering of local people and Taliban, sources close to the issue revealed, Press TV reported.
The council representing the people urged the Taliban to leave the area because thousands of people had been rendered homeless and scores killed as a result of their hostile activities.
The development will bring a temporary relief to the Pakistani army which says the level of resistance from the militants was beyond the expectations of the armed forces in the Taliban-controlled regions.
Taliban insurgents captured the Lower Dir and Buner districts in early April despite a government deal to enforce harsh Taliban-style laws on the neighboring Swat Valley in a bid to end an insurgency.
The districts are no more than 100 km (60 miles) away from Islamabad -- the capital of the nuclear-armed country. Taliban's loose control over the districts had put the capital on red alert several times during the past weeks.
The militants had refused to leave the region despite frequent calls by the Islamabad government. The military launched an operation named Black Thunder in response to Taliban plans to infiltrate into Islamabad and other major cities across the country.
Taliban influence has also given rise to fears in the US and other Western countries over the future of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal.
In response to the militancy, US President Barack Obama has ramped up missile strikes in tribal areas in the northwest of Pakistan and to the north of Swat. The attacks frequently lead to civilian causalities.
Military sources in Pakistan say they have managed to kill more than 1,100 militants since the beginning of the military operations in Swat and its adjoining districts.
The Pakistani side has also suffered heavy casualties. Dozens of soldiers are reported to have also lost their lives in Taliban ambushes and deadly attacks over the past three weeks.
The violence, according to the UN refugee agency, has also pushed around 1.5 million people into registered their names at camps set up in various parts of the North West Frontier Province since May 2.
The surge in militancy in Pakistan followed the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 - a war that pushed Taliban militants across the border and into Pakistan, turning the restive tribal belt between the two neighbors into the scene of daily violence.