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Bhutto son makes political debut

The youngest politician in Pakistan's Bhutto dynasty has made his debut political speech. Meanwhile Taliban militants have taken at least 22 soldiers hostage in the northwest of the country and killed two others.

On the fifth anniversary of his mother's assassination, the youngest of the Bhutto political dynasty made his debut speech in Pakistan. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is the son of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and murdered ex-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Bhutto Zardari, 24, is an Oxford graduate. He spoke to tens of thousands of supporters of the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) near his family's shrine in Sindh province.

"Let us resolve to defeat the forces of extremism and terrorism and work for the progress and prosperity of the country," he said to the party faithful at a televised rally.

His mother, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, allegedly by the Taliban, during the 2007 election campaign. Since then Bhutto Zardari has been the nominal PPP co-chairman. Real power has been exercised by his father, Pakistan's president and PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, who also spoke at the televised rally. He said next year's vote would be free and fair.

Bhutto Zardari's 25th birthday falls next September, making him eligible to stand in the next parliamentary elections. The Bhutto family has been a major force in Pakistan politics since independence in 1947.

Taliban attacks

Thursday began with pre-dawn attacks by dozens of militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades in the northwest of the country. Two policemen were killed and a further 22 were kidnapped in the town of Darra Adam Khel in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province near Pakistan's tribal region, the major safe area for Taliban militants.

Government officials said security forces have started an operation to try to find and rescue the kidnapped men.

jm/ccp (AFP, Reuters)