At least 13 passengers were killed and eight injured, while around 33 were kidnapped by suspected militants in an attack on a convoy of passenger vehicles in the Kurram tribal region on Friday.
Sources said that the victims were Turi tribesmen who belonged to the Shia sect.
The attack comes around a month and a half after a peace deal between warring tribes had led to the opening of the strategic Thall-Parachinar road, which had been closed for over three years due to sectarian clashes and the Taliban insurgency.
The sources told The Express Tribune that the incident occurred around 12 am in the Bagan area of Lower Kurram Agency, when suspected militants attacked a convoy of passenger vans on its way to Parachinar from Peshawar.
“Four Hiace vans were on their way from Peshawar to Parachinar — the headquarters of Kurram Agency — when armed men opened fire on the convoy, killing 13 and injuring eight others,” a source said.
He added that suspected militants torched one of the vehicles and hijacked the other three vans with passengers onboard. However, another source put the number of vehicles at three, saying that one was torched and two were hijacked.
The sources said that the convoy had entered Kurram Agency after crossing the Chapari check-post via Thall tehsil of Hangu district. The area where the attack took place is situated five kilometres from the Chapari check-post, inside Kurram Agency.
Sajid Hussain Turi, a lawmaker from Kurram Agency, told The Express Tribune that 26 passengers were kidnapped and 15 of them, including women and children, have been located.
Turi blamed the government and security forces for the attack and warned that they were being pushed to the wall, which will have consequences.
A peace accord signed between the warring sects last month in Kurram Agency is being threatened by the Taliban who have mounted a number of attacks against the Turi tribesmen in recent weeks.
The accord, brokered by a grand tribal jirga, may collapse anytime with possible retaliation by Turi tribesmen, as the number of their people killed by the Taliban is climbing, sources told The Express Tribune.
An MNA from Fata, requesting anonymity, told The Express Tribune that the Taliban, who are being indirectly supported by the Sunni tribes are bent upon destroying the accord signed after four years of bloodshed in Kurram Agency.
Earlier this week, the federal government, which had endorsed the accord, ordered action by the security agencies against the militants. However, tension continues to mount as the Taliban continue to attack the Turi tribesmen.
According to Pakistan Army officials, militants have shifted their operations from Waziristan and Orakzai to Kurram Agency. The Taliban have expanded their control over Kurram, military sources said, adding that the militants reportedly use the area as a training ground for their fighters and have set up several bases in the agency.
(With additional reporting by Qaiser Butt in Islamabad)
Published in The Express Tribune, March 26th, 2011.