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Page last updated at 15:33 GMT, Friday, 29 May 2009 16:33 UK

Pakistan ups Taliban chief reward

Reward poster in Islamabad
Pakistan is offering rewards for more than 20 Taliban leaders

Pakistan has increased its reward for a Taliban chief in the Swat valley to 50m rupees ($600,000, £372,000).

The figure is more than 10 times the original bounty for radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah.

Officials acted after Pakistani Taliban leaders warned of more bomb attacks in cities in retaliation for a government offensive in the north-west.

Authorities in Peshawar have banned public gatherings a day after at least 10 people died in two separate attacks.

On Wednesday at least 24 people died in a bomb attack in Lahore which targeted a police station and intelligence agency offices.

As fighting continued in Swat on Friday, the army said 28 militants had been killed in the last 24 hours and seven arrested. It said five soldiers and two civilians were injured in clashes.

The figures cannot be independently verified.

Sharia law

Analysts say the Taliban leader is the architect of a nearly two-year uprising in the Swat valley intended to enforce Sharia law.

Shops burn in Peshawar, Pakistan
Peshawar is on high alert after bomb attacks there

The price on his head is payable dead or alive, officials said.

Interior Secretary Syed Kamal Shah told Pakistan's APP news agency that the increase was made to "accelerate the efforts" for his arrest.

Interior ministry officials say Maulana Fazlullah is behind "various subversive activities".

Authorities have offered cash rewards for the arrest of 21 Taliban leaders, including Maulana Fazlullah's spokesman, Muslim Khan.

Adverts listing the men - 18 with pictures - appeared in several newspapers on Thursday.

Top Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud already has a $5m bounty on his head, posted by the US.

Hakimullah Mehsud, Taliban commander for the Orakzai and Khyber tribal regions, told the BBC that the attack in Lahore was in response to the army's operation in the Swat valley.

He warned of further attacks on "government targets" in Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Multan and said citizens should "evacuate their cities".

As the city of Peshawar struggled to return to normal after Thursday's blasts, the government in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) imposed a ban on gatherings of five or more people, while restrictions were put on motorists.

All educational institutions in the city have also been closed down. Correspondents say that many people in the city are gripped by fear.



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