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Page last updated at 10:51 GMT, Thursday, 30 October 2008

Bajaur Taleban 'to lay down arms'

Bajaur map

Islamist militants in a north-western tribal district in Pakistan have vowed to lay down their arms and renounce violence, officials say.

The vow was taken before a jirga or tribal meeting in the Mamund area of Bajaur, a Taleban stronghold.

A tribal elder told the BBC that the Taleban also agreed not to hold public meetings and rallies in the area.

The army is encouraging local tribes to stand up to militants linked to the Taleban and al-Qaeda in the north-west.

Bajaur is a crucial hub for insurgents, with access routes to Afghanistan and the rest of Pakistan.

Pressure

The talks between the local tribes and the Taleban took place over three days in the Mamund region.

A senior government official told the BBC Urdu Service that the militants swore before the jirga to unconditionally lay down their arms and promised not to engage in any kind of militant activity in the area.

It was also decided that people who sheltered foreign militants would be punished.

Tehrik-e Taleban Pakistan's Bajaur chief, Maulvi Faqir Mohammad, was represented at these talks by two of his senior commanders.

Taleban spokesman Maulvi Omar was unavailable for comment, despite repeated attempts by the BBC to reach him by telephone.

Mamund has been a centre of Taleban activity in Bajaur.

Most of the Taleban leadership comes from this sub-district. The headquarters of the Islamic courts set up by the Taleban were also based here.

In recent weeks, local tribesmen have been under pressure from the government to raise a tribal force against the Taleban as their neighbours in the Salarzai area of Bajaur have done.

In the Salarzai and Charmang regions of Bajaur, tribal forces have actively fought Taleban militants and evicted them from most of the area.

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