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Saturday, 20 April, 2002, 09:24 GMT 10:24 UK
Pakistan jails militant leader
Pro-Taleban demonstrators agitate against Islamabad's policies on Lahore street
Many Pakistanis vocally supported Afghan militants
test hello test
By Haroon Rashid
BBC correspondent in Peshawar
line

The leader of one of Pakistan's banned Islamic extremist groups has been sentenced to seven years in jail by a tribal court.

Imprisoned Sipah-e-Sahaba militants show victory sign in Karachi
Many religious extremists remain unrepentant

Maulana Sufi Mohammad, head of the now-banned Tehrik Nifaz-e-Shariat Mohammadi (TNSM), led hundreds of tribal young men into Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taleban in 2001.

He and 30 TNSM activists were arrested while returning from Afghanistan on 17 November last year after the fall of Taleban regime in Kabul.

The authorities arrested them for illegally entering restricted tribal areas in Pakistan's north-western borders with Afghanistan.

Reports confirming the sentence came on Saturday in Peshawar, capital of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

Anti-coalition combat

The provincial authorities say a tribal court had given its verdict some time ago although this verdict was reported by the local press on Saturday.

President Pervez Musharraf makes a point
General Musharraf faces a tough campaign

Maulana Sufi Mohammad and his band of TNSM volunteers come from the NWFP's Malakand Agency.

He and his militias went to Afghanistan to support the Taleban forces after the US-led coalition launched operations in that country.

Most of his supporters were either killed in action or were arrested by anti-Taleban forces.

After the fall of the Taleban, Maulana Mohammad tried to come back to Pakistan with only a handful of his followers.

He and his small group of fighters were arrested by the local administration of the tribal area while crossing the border into Pakistan.

Local militancy

A case was registered against them on charges of entering a restricted region without necessary permission.

A local four-member tribal court set up by the government found him and his 30 companions guilty and awarded them seven years in jail.

His followers say they will file an appeal against the conviction.

The TNSM was already waging a violent struggle for the imposition of Taleban-like Islamic rule in their area.

General Pervez Musharraf's military government banned the TNSM, along with several other militant groups, in January, as part of his campaign against religious extremism.

See also:

02 Apr 02 | South Asia
Pakistan arrests more suspects
23 Mar 02 | South Asia
Arrests mark Pakistan Day
14 Feb 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Pakistan
19 Mar 02 | South Asia
Pakistan's 'war on extremism' stalled
18 Mar 02 | South Asia
US focus on Pakistan after attack
11 Mar 02 | South Asia
'800 Pakistanis in Afghan prisons'
08 Mar 02 | South Asia
Pakistan amnesty for Islamic radicals
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