At least 34 militants, three soldiers, a woman and two children were killed, while eight others were injured, in a mortar shell firing incident and ensuing clash in the Khyber Agency on Thursday, military officials said.
Inter-Services Public Relations Frontier Corps Khyber- Pakhtunkhwa said in a statement that the clash took place when security forces were carrying out a search operation in the Shalobar area of Bara Tehsil and militants attacked them.
In the exchange of fire, three soldiers, including a captain, were killed. The captain was identified as Abdul Qadir Khan.
Assistant Political Agent (APA) Bara Rehan Gul Khattak refused to comment when approached, saying that only the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) secretariat or political agent could comment on it officially. Political Agent Muthair Zeb, however, was unavailable for comment.
On the other hand, local residents confirmed the attack within the domain of the Malik Din Khel tribe. They added that earlier during the day, mortar shells hit the area killing a woman and two children, while others were injured in the clash.
Following this, they said, security forces launched an operation in the area, which continued for hours, with both militants and soldiers killed in the exchange of fire. Bara tehsil is a stronghold of the banned militant outfit Lashkar-e-Islam (LeI) headed by the notorious Mangal Bagh.
This was the second incident of its kind in Bara. Earlier on Monday, at least nine soldiers and 14 militants were killed following an ambush on a security convoy in the Akakhel tribe section of Bara.
Khyber Agency has so far witnessed at least three military operations to rid the area of militants while Bara Bazaar continues to be under curfew after two years.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 21st, 2011.