Four soldiers killed in FR Bannu blast

Tribal elders threatened to scrap their peace agreement with the government if curfew is not lifted in the agency.

Afp/nasruminallah April 21, 2013
“Bomb was planted under a culvert near the check post, it destroyed one military vehicle and killed four soldiers,” says an army official. PHOTO: FILE


Four security personnel were killed and six others were injured by a roadside bomb targeting their convoy in Frontier Region (FR) Bannu on Sunday.

According to security officials, the convoy was en route to Bannu from the security forces camp in the Mirali tehsil of North Waziristan Agency. They said the blast occurred around 12:30 pm, when the convoy was passing through FR Bannu’s Khwaja Kharh area. The remote-controlled bomb, planted near the Khwaja Kharh checkpost, went off right next to one of the vehicles, said the officials. They added that the explosion was strong enough to push the vehicle down a roadside ravine. Four personnel were killed and six others were injured in the incident, they told The Express Tribune.

An army official in Peshawar confirmed the attack on the convoy of more than a dozen vehicles and the casualty toll. “The bomb was planted under a culvert near the check post, it destroyed one military vehicle and killed four soldiers,” he said. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the blast.

Following the incident, security officials cordoned off the area and launched a manhunt. However, no one was arrested till the filing of this report.

The deceased and the injured, meanwhile, were moved to the Bannu combined military hospital. The deceased personnel were identified as Zulfiqar, Muhammad Sharif, Fazal Azeem, and Asad Khan.

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the country’s tribal regions have been witnessing bombings and other militant violence on a near-daily basis. Four people, including a levies official, were killed a day before when a female suicide bomber blew herself up at the main gate of a hospital in Khar, the main town of Bajaur Agency.

More than 35,000 people have been killed as a result of terrorism in the country since the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

Curfews in the agency

Tribal elders attending a grand jirga threatened on Sunday to scrap their peace agreement with the government unless local authorities agree to lift a bruising curfew in the North Waziristan Agency by April 24.

The tribal elders lamented that the curfew had already blighted the election campaigns of poll contenders in the area. They said it had also affected business and curtailed the education of students.

The last curfew was imposed by the government following the April 16 attack on security personnel in which at least seven officials lost their lives. Such attacks have occurred regularly in the agency of late, triggering the imposition and relaxation of curfew by the authorities.

The elders, Malik Haq Nawaz, Malik Shahbaz Khan, Malik Inayatullah, Ayub Khan, Malik Muhammad Rasool Khan, asked the government to chalk out a permanent plan for curfew relaxation as the agency’s educational institutions were shut and business activities were at standstill for weeks due to curfews.

The tribal elders warned the government that if the issue remained deadlocked, they would be forced to end their peace deal – an outcome for which the government will be responsible.

Campaigns in jeopardy

“The government didn’t want the candidates to run their election campaigns peacefully in the agency,” said the tribesmen, explaining that most of the candidates had launched campaigns in their hujras as they could not step out of their homes due to the curfew.

Poll campaigns

Three poll contestants for NA-40 seat, Malik Muhammad Naseer Khan, Malik Riaz (independent) and Malik Misal Khan of Jamaat-e-Islami, told reporters on Sunday that they couldn’t paste posters in many areas of the agency to apprise people of their manifestos owing to restrictions on movement.

The government, according to them, is in no mood to allow election-related activity in North Waziristan Agency.

They lamented that people living remote areas of the agency were not aware of the election campaigns that they had carried out in some parts of the agency. “We are deprived of conducting electioneering and run our campaign while there is not much time left for the elections,” said one of the candidates.

The elders also called upon the government to issue the computerised national identitiy cards to the agency’s tribesmen as most of them are still visiting the political administration offices for the last three months for the CNICs and would be left out from casting votes.

On April 1, the tribal jirga had appealed to the United Nations for easing curfew hours in the agency and threatened to march towards Peshawar in case the political administration did not withdraw the measure. The curfew was lifted soon after.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2013.

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