NATO led a growing chorus of international concern Tuesday by warning that a truce between the government of Pakistan and Taliban militants in a restive region near the Afghan border risks giving the extremists a “safe haven.”
A hard-line cleric sent to the battle-scarred Swat Valley to negotiate with the Taliban received a hero’s welcome there by crowds shouting “Long live Islam! Long live peace!”
The cleric, Sufi Muhammad, expressed hope the militants would give up their arms to honor the pact, which imposes Islamic law and suspends a military offensive in the former tourist haven and nearby areas.
The truce “is certainly reason for concern,” NATO spokesman James Appathurai said in Brussels. “We should all be concerned by a situation in which extremists would have a safe haven.”
Bahai leaders accused of spying
Seven leaders of the Bahai faith who have been detained for more than eight months in Iran have been officially accused of espionage, a spokesman for the Iranian judiciary said Tuesday.
The seven leaders were arrested in May, prompting international criticism of Iran for its treatment of Bahai followers. On Friday, in response to initial reports that the seven leaders would be charged with spying, U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Wood issued a statement condemning the leveling of “baseless charges” against the Bahai leaders.
Followers of the Bahai faith, an offshoot of Islam that originated in 19th-century Persia, say the Bahai founder is the final prophet, a distinction that Muslim scholars say should be reserved for the Prophet Muhammad.
Bahais claim 300,000 followers in Iran, but there are no independent statistics on the denomination’s size in the country.
The seven arrested Bahais form the leadership of the sect in Iran.