ISLAMABAD: Nearly a dozen training camps and hideouts of terrorist groups have been destroyed and over a dozen terrorists — including a top trainer of suicide bombers — have been killed in two days of artillery shelling by Pakistan’s military, Afghan sources confirmed on Saturday.
The confirmation came hours after Kabul summoned Pakistan’s ambassador to lodge a protest over what it called ‘cross-border rocket firing’. A day earlier, sources said four training compounds of the outlawed Jamaatul Ahrar (JuA) terrorist group had been decimated in the areas opposite Mohmand and Khyber agencies.
According to Afghan sources, 10 to 12 training camps and hideouts of the JuA and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) — including that of JuA commander Wali — and ammunition dumps have been destroyed in the blitz. “Fifteen to 20 terrorists, among them Commander Rehman Baba, have been killed and many more injured,” one Afghan source added.
Rehman Baba, a high-value target, was responsible for training suicide bombers and young terrorists. Sources said on Friday that four JuA terrorist camps — including one run by the group’s deputy chief Adil Bacha — had been decimated.
The outlawed TTP and its breakaway faction JuA have set up ‘safe havens’ across the border in Afghanistan which they use as a springboard for launching attacks inside Pakistan. The two groups have been behind most terrorist attacks in the country.
The security situation along the Pak-Afghan border in Khyber Agency remains fluid. An official of the local political administration said as many as 4,000 tribesmen living in the Shinpokh and Samsay villages of Shalman have been asked to evacuate. A day earlier 400 households in the Samsai area had been evacuated amid a military operation in the villages near the border with Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, fresh contingents of security forces have reached the bordering areas of Shalman, Rena and Parchao.
Pakistan shut the main Torkham border crossing with Afghanistan following a string of deadly attacks, including Thursday’s suicide bombing at the shrine of Sufi saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, in the country last week.
Long queues of container trucks were stranded on both sides of the border as transit trade between the two countries remained suspended due to their strained relations. Movement of people to and from Afghanistan is not allowed. However, border guards and political administration allow the transportation of corpses and bereaved families as a goodwill gesture.
Earlier in the day, Pakistan’s ambassador in Kabul was summoned to the Afghan foreign ministry over “cross-border shelling by Pakistani forces”. Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Karzai summoned envoy Abrar Hussain to “formally register protest over the firing of rockets by Pakistani troops”, according to a statement issued by Afghanistan’s foreign ministry.
Karzai accused that Pakistani forces fired rockets into the Lal Pur area of eastern Nangarhar province and some other areas late Friday. “The shelling has resulted in the displacement of people in cold weather,” he claimed. He also conveyed Kabul’s “concerns at the closure of the Torkham gate and the arrest of 150 Afghan refugees in Islamabad and Torkham”.
On Saturday, Afghan National Security Adviser Hanif Atmar said after speaking to Prime Minister Nawaz’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, Kabul and Islamabad have agreed to discuss ways to better respond to terror attacks on both sides. The two advisers spoke a day after the Sehwan bombing.
“Afghanistan is ready to collaborate with Pakistan and other international partners to achieve the goal [of eradicating terrorism],” Atmar said. On his Twitter feed, he pointed out that both the countries faced a ‘common enemy’.
“We must find and execute effective strategies to eliminate terrorist sanctuaries wherever they exist and without any distinctions,” he said. “There should be no distinction between terrorist groups who themselves show no distinction between countries or peoples and no regard for human rights.”
Following the phone call, Pakistan’s Foreign Office said Sartaj expressed serious concern that the JuA continued to “operate from its sanctuaries and safe havens in Afghanistan for undertaking terrorism in Pakistan.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 19th, 2017.