Pakistan Deploys 2,500 Troops to Combat Taliban-Linked Militant Cleric in Northwest Province

The Pakistan army has sent 2,500 troops into a remote valley in the country's northwest to combat the followers of a militant cleric calling for Taliban-style rule, a spokesman said Wednesday.

The paramilitary troops are setting up checkpoints across Swat, a mountain valley popular with tourists until violence flared there this summer, army spokesman Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad said.

Arshad said the deployment would curb the activities of Maulana Fazlullah, a militant leader who has used FM radio broadcasts to reportedly call for jihad, or holy war, against Pakistani security forces.

Checkpoints manned jointly by paramilitary Frontier Corps. troops and local police are to "ensure law and order, to assist the civil administration and ensure that Fazlullah and his band of criminals stop terrorizing innocent civilians," Arshad said.

The army already sent regular troops into Swat, which lies about 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of Peshawar, capital of North West Frontier Province, in July as part of a crackdown on militancy spreading across the region.

The deployment prompted a string of deadly bombings and suicide attacks on security forces in the region.

Arshad warned militants against responding to the latest deployment with more violence.

"If they want to be taken to task so they can react, but it will be perhaps better for them if they desist from their activities and turn themselves over to the law enforcement agencies," he said.