16 killed as militants ambush convoy in Kurram

Manzoor Ali July 18, 2010

PESHAWAR: Gunmen opened fire on passenger vehicles in the strife-torn Kurram tribal region on Saturday, killing 16 people and injuring another four, political authorities said.

The incident came a week after 13 tribesmen were killed in a similar ambush in the Afghan province of Paktia while they were travelling to Peshawar from Parachinar, the main town in Kurram Agency. Travellers often take long detours into Afghanistan instead of travelling on the Thall-Parachinar-Sadda highway, which is prone to attacks by militants.

“Gunmen opened indiscriminate fire on a convoy of Peshawar-bound passenger buses in the Charkhel area of Lower Kurram Agency,” an official of the political administration told The Express Tribune by phone from the region.  He said that there were 60 vehicles in the convoy.

The local commander of the paramilitary force, Colonel Tauseef Akhtar, confirmed the incident, saying that 14 passengers were killed and another four wounded in the incident. However, the political authorities put the death toll at 16.

Following the ambush, security forces imposed a curfew in Ouch, Mandori and Anjan areas of the agency and started a manhunt.

The convoy was on its way to Thall sub-division from Parachinar, when it came under attack. “The Thall-Parachinar highway has been closed for more than two years due to its vulnerability to attacks by rival sects,” a resident told The Express Tribune.

Kurram Agency has for three years been a flashpoint for violence between Shia and Sunni tribesmen. Hundreds of people from both sides have been killed ever since, while many more have fled their homes to safer locations in the neighbouring districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Last Saturday, gunmen ambushed a Peshawar-bound passenger vehicle in a hail of gunfire while it was travelling in the Wazza area of the Afghan province of Paktia. At least 13 travellers from the Shia sect were killed in the attack.

On March 5, a suicide bomber had targeted a Parachinar-bound convoy in the Thall sub-division of Hangu district, killing 12 people and maiming scores others.

Alarmed by deadly clashes between tribesmen from both sects, paramilitary troops launched an operation, codenamed Khwakh Ba De Sham (I’ll teach you a lesson) in September last year.  Earlier this month security forces claimed that they have flushed out militants from 80 per cent of the region. They also took a select group of journalists to the region to show them their gains.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2010.


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