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Page last updated at 13:53 GMT, Thursday, 26 June 2008 14:53 UK

Rebels 'burn Pakistan ski hotel'

Empty hotel in Swat
Swat's tourism industry has ground to a halt

Militants in north-west Pakistan have burned down much of a hotel in the country's only ski resort, police say.

The night time attack follows sporadic clashes this week between militants and security forces and arson attacks on several girls' schools.

The Swat valley fire came hours after the prime minister and military agreed a broad outline to counter the threat of Islamist militancy.

The meeting was also attended by politicians and intelligence chiefs.

'Deteriorating'

The government-run hotel at Malam Jabba is located about 150km (93 miles) north of Islamabad at an altitude of 2,636m (9,200ft).

Officials say that the authorities have not been able to get to the resort to tackle the blaze or inspect the damage.

Map Swat

The ski resort shut down last August when militants took over Swat.

"The area is not under our control, it's under the militants' control and no one can go there," Swat's police chief, Waqif Khan, told Reuters news agency.

Militants in the area have denied they were responsible for the attack.

"Our target is the security forces, we have nothing to do with the hotel," militant spokesman Muslim Khan said.

He said that illegal mountain log cutters - or "timber mafia" - were to blame because they did not want the peace accord to succeed.

The BBC's Barbara Plett in Islamabad says the security situation in Swat has been deteriorating despite a one-month peace agreement between the government and a radical pro-Taleban cleric.

The Taleban had suspended contact with the authorities because of differences over implementing the deal but have agreed to return to talks expected to be held on Thursday.

With the recent peace accord, our correspondent says that there had been hope for a revival of the tourism industry.

Suicide bombings

The Taleban admit attacking soldiers and police to avenge the death of the their comrades but they deny torching at least 10 girls' schools, claiming unnamed elements were trying to sabotage the peace deal.

Girls school
The Taleban have denied attacking girls' schools in Swat

Our correspondent says that the Swat accord is part of the government's plan to end Islamic militancy through peace deals.

The strategy has led to a dramatic drop in suicide bombings but critics say it has also allowed the Taleban to regroup.

The attack follows a meeting on Wednesday in which the prime minister and army and intelligence chiefs agreed to seek political engagement with militants in the north-west through members of parliament, tribal elders and influential local people.


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