Page last updated at 08:10 GMT, Tuesday, 25 May 2010 09:10 UK

Swat 'Taliban families' expelled by tribal council

Troops on patrol in the village of Kabal, Swat Valley (file pic: 11 December 2009)
The Swat valley has seen a resumption of Taliban activity

About 25 families of suspected Taliban fighters have been expelled from Pakistan's troubled Swat valley, officials and witnesses say.

Officials say the families were banished from the area by a local council of elders and not the army.

Reports say they were sent away because their "Taliban relatives" failed to surrender to security forces.

The military has put them up at a camp previously used by Afghan refugees in the Malakand area.

"The orders to banish the families from Swat have come from a jirga (council), not from us," said Colonel Akhtar, an army spokesman in Swat.

"We are not hiding anything, we will take media persons to the camp when the time is right," he said.

His comments came on Monday after guards at the camp reportedly prevented journalists from approaching the people there.

One journalist told the BBC that the camp had been placed under strict security.

And there are unconfirmed reports that people in the camp have had their mobile phones taken away.

Tribal deadline

Col Akhtar told the media that the army is providing food, drinks and other necessities to the families.

Officials in Swat say a tribal council in Swat's Kabal district had given a deadline to Taliban militants in the area to surrender to the security forces - about 24 gave themselves up.

But three days ago, the families of those suspected militants who failed to surrender were ordered by the council to leave Swat.

They were escorted by security forces to the camp in Palai.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has condemned this action and demanded that the families be sent back to their homes.

"There is no justification, legal or moral, for turning people out of their homes just because they are relatives of militants," the HRCP said in a statement

"If anyone is suspected of wrongdoing, he or she can be kept under observation in their own areas as well," she said.

Pakistan's army had declared the Swat valley free of militants after carrying out an anti-Taliban operation in 2009.

However, Taliban militants have resumed targeted killings of local leaders in the area in recent months.

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