ISLAMABAD: Several heavily armed rival groups on Wednesday launched major attacks against the Pakistan Taliban in Mohmand tribal region along the border with Afghanistan to expel the group’s supporters from the area, a Taliban commander said.
Omar Mukarram Khurasani, spokesman for the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Mohmand agency, told The Express Tribune that hundreds of militants were resisting the opponents.
Khurasni said via phone from Mohmand agency that nearly 400 armed members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Ansar-ul-Islam and the local anti-Taliban lashkar launched the attack early Wednesday at the strategic and historic Jarobi Darra, bordering Afghanistan’s eastern Kunar province.
He said the rivals groups also launched attacks on TTP supporters at two locations on the Afghan side of the border, bordering Mohmand agency.
The areas include Shunkrey and Maya, where hundreds of the TTP members had been living, dozens with families, after fleeing military operations in Mohmand agency.
“There are reports of casualties on both sides however I cannot share exact information about the casualties,” the TTP commander said.
He said the TTP did not want fighting and had also called for mediation to avoid the clash. “However, the rivals were bent upon attacking TTP supporters in the region.”
Asked as to why the rivals launched the offensive against the TTP, Khurasani alleged that “Our opponents launched the operation on the behest of the Pakistani security agencies.”
He went on to say that the rivals want to control the areas and that is why they launched the attacks against the Pakistani Taliban.
“Our people are showing stiff resistance to the attacks,” the TTP spokesman said, adding that both sides are using heavy weapons including mortars.
Independent verification of the events is difficult as journalists have no access to the rugged mountains.
Some experts familiar with the area said that it was secure for the TTP militants who fled military operations and arrived in the rugged mountains of Mohmand agency.
One expert, requesting not to be named, was of the view that the TTP is under mounting pressure after security forces took control of the TTP stronghold of Maidan in Tirah Valley of Khyber agency, this month.
The TTP spokesman, Eshsanullah Ehsan had earlier accused Lashkar-e-Taiba and Ansarul Islam of hatching a plot to attack its bases and supporters in Mohmand Agency with the support of the local ‘lashkar’ called Mohmand Force.
TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan had told The Express Tribune this month that the two groups had reached a pact with the local anti-Taliban forces.
“We will fight back and there will be bloodshed,” he had stated in an interview on June 8.
The Lashkar-e-Taiba had rejected the TTP’s claim, arguing that its activities were only limited to Indian Kashmir.
“We neither work in Afghanistan nor in Pakistan’s tribal regions. We do not have any links with any group in the tribal regions,” LeT spokesman Abdullah Ghaznavi had told The Express Tribune via phone from an undisclosed location.
There had been concerns earlier that a commander of the Afghan Taliban, Abdul Rahim, who had lost his son in fighting with the TTP supporters in Kunar provinvce, had also announced to support the anti-TTP operations. However, Zabihullah Mujahid, the Afghan Taliban spokesman, had denied any involvement and said Afghan Taliban will not allow its people to carry out any operations outside Afghanistan.
The Express Tribune has learnt that a negotiation team of the Afghan Taliban and the TTP had held talks following the tensions and resolved their differences.