Page last updated at 12:16 GMT, Monday, 25 August 2008 13:16 UK

Pakistan government bans Taleban

Baitullah Mehsud
Baitullah Mehsud is the head of Pakistan's Taleban

Pakistan has banned the Taleban militant group which has been behind many suicide attacks in the country since 2007.

The Tehreek-e-Taleban Pakistan (TTP) will have its bank accounts and assets frozen, the interior ministry said.

The militants said the ban would have no effect on their current policies.

Last week the Taleban claimed responsibility for an attack on a munitions plant in Punjab province in which 67 people were killed.

The TTP is a loose grouping of militants headed by Baitullah Mehsud, who is based in Pakistan's South Waziristan tribal district on Afghanistan's border.

The ban on the Taleban comes a day after the man likely to be Pakistan's next president, Asif Ali Zardari, advocated such a move in a BBC interview.

'Created mayhem'

"We have banned Tehreek-e-Taleban Pakistan because of their involvement in a series of suicide attacks," interior ministry chief Rehman Malik said.

"They themselves have claimed responsibility for several suicide attacks and the government cannot engage in a dialogue with such people," he said.

Mr Malik said the Taleban had "created mayhem against the public life".

A ministry official told the BBC that the state bank had been asked to freeze any accounts the organisation might have.

A spokesman for Pakistani Taleban, Maulvi Omar, said the ban would only make them stronger.

"No, we do not have any accounts," he said. "We have no assets or any relationships with any banks. We have no need... we do very well on our own."

He continued: "As long as the Pakistan army continues its operation against us, we will remain united and together.

"In fact the ban will bring greater unity and will force more groups to join us. We will continue our current policies come what may."

Pakistan's Taleban is fighting for an Islamic state and the militants see it as their religious duty to fight the international forces currently in Afghanistan, says the BBC's Charles Haviland in Islamabad.

Meeting journalists in May, Baitullah Mehsud said his organisation did not want to fight Pakistan's army, but that it was being forced to do so because the army were "slaves to US demands".

There have been a number of local ceasefire deals with the Taleban and other militants but none have been successful in stopping the violence or preventing incursions into Afghanistan, our correspondent says.

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