The innocuous-looking town of Mansehra has seen more than its fair share of militancy. The latest incident was an attack on a police checkpost by gunmen on Friday. The post was well protected with sand-bags and barricades but they could not prevent the death of four policemen. The militants escaped, possibly to the neighbouring tribal area of Kala Dhaka, where authorities say Taliban figures have been assembling for months after the military descended on Swat last year. An operation is planned but there is no information yet as to when it may be put into effect. The lawless reputation of the area is hampering the ability to combat criminals who have set up camp there. Surely, securing this region after the relative success in Swat should be a priority for the government.
The attacks Mansehra has seen in recent months include one on a British charity in February 2008. Four Pakistani employees were killed and the organisation wrapped up activities in the country. The people they were assisting through various projects paid the price. Another international NGO was attacked this year and seven people were killed then. There have also been other strikes on security targets. The nature of a once peaceful urban centre, which acted as the base for relief activities in the aftermath of the October 2005 quake, has changed quite dramatically. Even the groups still based there are considering pulling out. The authorities need to review the situation urgently. The lawlessness in Mansehra poses a grave threat. It seems obvious that militants are able to operate at will across it, and until decisive action is taken this can only mean more attacks of the kind we saw on May 8.
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