At least five people, including the chief of a tribal militia and his three colleagues, were killed in a suicide attack in the Bajaur tribal region on Saturday, officials said.
The bombing took place in the Salarzai sub-division, 65 kilometres northeast of Khar, the main town of the Bajaur Agency.
“A suicide bomber blew himself up in front of the vehicle of Malik Manasib Khan, killing him and four others, including a soldier of paramilitary Dir Scouts, and wounding five others,” police official Javed Khan said.
Manasib Khan was the chief of the Salarzai tribe, which had raised a lashkar (militia) and expelled Taliban militants from their area.
Local sources said Manasib Khan and his colleagues were returning after attending a jirga which was convened to discuss the situation created by Thursday’s attack by Afghan militants on a paramilitary post in the neighbouring Lower Dir district.
“The jirga organisers wanted to muster support of local tribes for the security forces” Ameen, a local resident, told The Express Tribune by phone from the area.
Local officials confirmed the attack and the death toll. The injured were shifted to the Tehsil Headquarters Hospital in Khar.
A security official confirmed that Lt Col Hyder Bangash of the paramilitary Dir Scouts was also injured in the attack. “In fact he was the target,” said the official.
Manasib Khan had survived four previous attempts on his life by Taliban militants, police official Khan said.
The tribal militias have also been facing the wrath of the Taliban for ‘siding’ with the government. Militants have killed hundreds of tribal elders and lashkar volunteers in bomb attacks and ambushes.
Malik Anwerzeb Khan, a Salarzai lashkar elder, told The Express Tribune earlier this month that the government gave a paltry monthly stipend of Rs3,000 to each volunteer of his 600-strong militia.
“Other than that they have never provided us arms and ammunition or any monetary support,” he added. “The government has been feeding us on hollow promises.”
However, he said that the Salarzai lashkar was fighting the war for their soil, for their traditions and for their ‘honour’.
After Saturday’s attack, the Salrzai lashkar said in a statement that “we cannot be defeated with suicide bombings and cowardly attacks. We will continue our fight till we eradicate the last militant”.
According to Malik Anwezeb, the Salarzai lashkar has lost over 70 volunteers in its campaign against the militants.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 24th, 2011.