Police arrest 6 wounded Taliban fighters at hospital in Pakistan

Sunday, October 1st 2006, 11:44 am
By: News On 6

QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) _ Police arrested six Afghan Taliban fighters at a private hospital in Pakistan's southwestern city of Quetta on Sunday, an official said.

The six men arrived at the privately run Al-Khidmat hospital in Quetta about two days ago with bullet wounds, said Chaudhry Mohammed Yaqoob, chief of police in Baluchistan province where Quetta is located.

Yaqoob said police raided the hospital after receiving information that the Taliban fighters were there.

The six and three other men, who were the fighters' attendants, have been transferred to a government hospital where they are in police custody, he said.

``They have been hit by bullets. In initial interrogation they said they were wounded while fighting,'' Yaqoob said adding that police could get information immediately on where in Afghanistan the militants were wounded.

In recent weeks, Taliban fighters have fought deadly clashes with Afghan government and international security forces mainly in southern Afghanistan, believed to be an insurgent hotbed that borders Baluchistan.

A U.S.-led military campaign ousted the Taliban from power in late 2001 for harboring al-Qaida, blamed for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

Afghan officials have repeatedly said that Taliban leaders sheltered in Pakistan and staged attacks against the U.S.-backed Afghan government from there. Pakistan denies the allegation.

Last month, more than 40 other Taliban fighters, including two senior commanders, were arrested from hospitals in Quetta where they were undergoing treatment for their wounds, police said.

Yaqoob said Sunday that 21 of those who were captured last month have been handed over to Afghan authorities.

Those arrested on Sunday will go to court which will decide whether to repatriate them or jail them in Pakistan, Yaqoob said.

Pakistan, a key U.S. ally in the war against terrorism, has deployed 80,000 troops along its porous border with Afghanistan to hunt down militants and try to halt illegal crossings.

Also on Sunday, a Pakistani official said pro-Taliban Islamic militants have shut down an office they had set up to fight crime in the restive North Waziristan tribal region along the border with Afghanistan amid concern it could be seen as a challenge to government authority.

The office in Miran Shah, the main town in the northwestern area, was closed over the weekend because it projected a ``negative perception'' about the recent peace deal between militants and the government, said a spokesman for the government department supervising the semiautonomous area.

Pakistan's government has defended a Sept. 5 truce with tribesmen in North Waziristan, often called ``local Taliban,'' after years of bloody fighting. Critics say the peace deal could create a militant haven and make it easier for them to slip into Afghanistan.

Area militants _ suspected of links with the Taliban _ had opened an office Wednesday for residents of semiautonomous North Waziristan to report robberies, car thefts and murders.

A senior militant leader said the office would deliver justice under Islamic laws, which provide for chopping off thieves' hands and publicly executing murderers, punishments the Taliban militia using during its rule in Afghanistan.

The establishment of the office had raised fears that militants were increasing their influence in rugged North Waziristan following the peace accord.