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Page last updated at 18:00 GMT, Monday, 23 February 2009

Pakistan Taleban in Bajaur truce

Pakistani soldiers in the north-west
Pakistani soldiers launched an operation in Bajaur in August

A senior Taleban figure in Pakistan's Bajaur district has announced a unilateral ceasefire.

Faqir Mohammad made the announcement in a radio speech.

Faqir Mohammad is thought to be the deputy of Baitullah Mehsud, who the Pakistani authorities say is the main Taleban commander in the region.

The military says it has seized the strategic Bachina heights in Bajaur and it remains to be seen whether it will agree to a ceasefire.

The military began its operation in Bajaur last August and has used it as proof of its commitment to tackle the Taleban in the restive north-west.

The truce move comes a week after a deal was signed between Pakistani officials and Taleban representatives to end an insurgency in the Swat region in return for the imposition of Sharia law.

Alliances

Faqir Mohammad said in his 30-minute speech: "We made this announcement of a unilateral ceasefire in the interest of Pakistan and our region.

"We advise our people not to take action against security forces."

He stressed that "Pakistan is our country and the Pakistan army is our army".

Tribal areas map

Faqir Mohammad said: "We don't want to fight the army, but some elements have been creating misunderstandings between us."

He said there were no foreign fighters in Bajaur.

"However, if we found any foreigners here, the Tehrik-e-Taleban Pakistan (TTP) would take action against them."

He warned that if drone attacks in Pakistani tribal areas continued "we will avenge them by attacking Western troops inside Afghanistan".

The announcement comes a day after the security troops dislodged militants from the strategic Bachina heights.

Military action has been lessening in Bajaur with the capture of several strategic points by the military.

It also came two days after the head of the TTP, Baitullah Mehsud, announced a new strategic alliance with two important non-TTP groups in Waziristan.

One is led by Mullah Nazir in South Waziristan and the other by Hafiz Gul Bahadur in North Waziristan.

The announcement did not specifically mention the militants of Swat, Bajaur and Mohmand as forming a part of the new alliance.

The BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says many observers take this to mean that the Waziristan groups have decided to fend for themselves.

The Swat chapter of the TTP has already called a truce and the cleric, Sufi Muhammad, is brokering the peace talks between the Taleban and the government.

Our correspondent says observers believe some militants are on the retreat due to people's war fatigue, the recent realignments within different groups in anticipation of the new US strategy in the region and increasing international pressure on Pakistan to eliminate militant sanctuaries.

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