Pak Army credits Afghan forces in arrest of militants
KABUL (Pajhwok): Pakistan’s military on Thursday acknowledged Afghanistan’s help in arresting the Taliban militants who orchestrated the attack on a Peshawar school in December that killed 150 people.
The Pakistani Army spokesman told reporters in Rawalpindi, where the army is headquartered, that the Afghan security forces had captured six militants who had been linked to the attack.
Maj. Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa said Afghanistan has also stepped up intelligence and military cooperation, particularly along their mutual border.
Last week, six Afghan army cadets arrived in Pakistan for a training course at Pakistan’s main military academy.
Pakistan is still seeking the capture of six Taliban fugitives linked to the Peshawar attack, including the movement’s leader Maulana Fazlullah.
Bajwa said the army had taken 12 people in custody in relation to the attack, which involved 27 people and was led by a commander, Hajji Kamran.
Before the assault, the attackers based themselves in the Khyber tribal district before dividing into two groups that hid at a mosque and a house in Peshawar on the eve of the attack, the general said.
The military has since arrested a cleric associated with the Taliban cell, and is offering a $25,000 reward for the capture of Hazrat Ali, another militant linked to the violence. But, he added, the assault had been masterminded by the Taliban leader, Fazlullah, from his base in Afghanistan.
“He is a known terrorist. His capture and handover to Pakistan are being discussed with the Afghan leadership,” General Bajwa said. “We are hopeful that we will hear a quick response from them in this regard.”
Peshawar police say thousands of Afghan refugees have been arrested and at least 450 imams of mosques of Afghan origin deported to Afghanistan in different search operations in the city after the Army Public School (APS) attack.
Also on Thursday in Islamabad, the visiting Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, publicly offered China’s help in mediating between the Afghan Taliban and the government in Kabul.
The Chinese foreign minister said Beijing was ready to support the Afghan government in reconciling with the Taliban.
He said that Afghanistan’s long-term stability depended on a “broad-based and inclusive national reconciliation” which needed international support.
President Ashraf Ghani visited Beijing in October and China promised $245 million in “free assistance”, having already secured major oil and copper-mining concessions in the country.
With NATO’s combat mission in Afghanistan having finished in December, Wang it was time to end the country’s decades of turmoil and poverty.
“We will support the Afghan government in realising reconciliation with various political factions including Taliban,” Wang told a news conference in Islamabad, speaking through an interpreter.
“The international community needs to give support and encouragement. China is ready to play a constructive role and will provide necessary facilitation any time if it is required by various parties in Afghanistan.”
Also present on the occasion was Pakistan’s foreign affairs adviser Sartaj Aziz, who also announced Chinese President Xi Jinping would visit Pakistan “at an early date this year”.
Last month the Taliban said they had sent a delegation to China, in an English-language statement posted on their website. The militants insisted the visit was not for the purposes of mediation.
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