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To capture ‘dead or alive’:

Pakistan offers reward for Taliban Chief

PAKISTAN: Pakistan on Sunday offered a 615,000-dollar reward for information leading to the capture, dead or alive, of local Taliban head Baitullah Mehsud, currently holed up in the tribal belt.

Two national Urdu-language newspapers and local papers in the northwest city of Peshawar carried an advert offering the 50-million-rupee (615,300-dollar) reward for Mehsud, and other amounts for 10 other senior militants.

“The government has announced a cash reward for anybody providing authentic information leading to the capture of these (11), dead or alive,” said the advertisement. It then lists the wanted men, along with their bounties.

“Innocent people are being killed because of the bloody activities of these so-called defenders of Islam,” the advert says.

Fighter jets and helicopter gunships have been pounding Mehsud’s hideouts for weeks, ahead of an expected ground offensive following a similar operation to root out Taliban in and around northwest Swat valley launched in late April.

Fayyaz Tooro, home secretary of the North West Frontier Province, said it was the first time Pakistan had slapped a figure on Al-Qaeda-linked Mehsud.

“This list has been issued by the interior ministry and has been published for the first time in close cooperation with security agencies, which provided invaluable information to the government,” Tooro told AFP.

Mehsud already has a five-million-dollar bounty on his head offered by the United States, with the US State Department branding the warlord “a key Al-Qaeda facilitator in the tribal areas of South Waziristan.”

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