MIRAMSHAH/ KHAR/ ISLAMABAD:
At least 14 militants were killed when Pakistani border guards repelled a pre-dawn cross-border attack on a military post in the Warra Mamond tehsil of Bajaur Agency. Subsequently, the Afghan charge d’affaires was summoned to the Foreign Office to protest the raid.
“Dozens of heavily-armed militants sneaked into Bajaur from Afghanistan around 5am and attacked the military post in the Nao Top area, 25 kilometres northwest of the agency headquarters of Khar,” an official of the security forces told The Express Tribune.
One border guard was killed and two others were critically wounded in the attack, he added. Security personnel manning the post fended off the attackers and called for aerial support. Shortly afterwards, helicopter gunships were rushed to the area. Some 14 militants were killed in the retaliatory action, forcing the remaining to flee across the border.
The injured border guards were shifted to hospital before reinforcements were sent to the region to comb the area for more attackers, the security official said.
In a statement, the Foreign Office put the number of attackers at 200-plus. “To repulse the terrorist attack, Pakistani troops responded with artillery and aviation support. Any allegations about shelling on Afghan civilians inside Afghanistan are incorrect. Pakistan aviation [forces] only fired on attacking terrorists,” it added.
An official of the local political administration said that security has been enhanced in the entire agency while tribal jirgas are being convened to seek support of the local tribesmen.
Islamabad formally lodged a protest with the Afghan charge d’affairs over the attack.
“A protest was lodged with the Afghan charge d’affaires and the matter was also taken up by our ambassador in Kabul with the Afghan foreign ministry,” said the Foreign Office statement.
“Pakistan’s concerns about miscreants and terrorists attacking from the other side of the border have been repeatedly shared with Afghan authorities. We hope effective steps will be taken to prevent recurrence of such incidents,” it added.
Earlier this month, Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif had taken up the issue during his talks with his Afghan counterpart Sher Muhammad Karimi and International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) Commander General Joseph Dunford in Kabul.
Bajaur Agency shares a border with Afghanistan’s northeastern province of Kunar, where Mullah Fazlullah-led Taliban fighters have been sheltering since they were routed in a massive military operation from the scenic valley of Swat in 2008. Since then, militants have been using Afghan soil as a springboard for mounting cross-border attacks on Pakistani posts.
Over in North Waziristan Agency, a tribal jirga warned that local tribesmen will migrate to neighbouring Afghanistan, if the government launched a military operation in the region. The warning came a day after a powerful Taliban commander, Hafiz Gul Bahadur, accused the government of reneging on a peace agreement signed with his faction in 2007.
The Jirga was convened by Uthmanzai Wazir and Dawar tribes in the Darpa Khel Eidgah, Miramshah, the agency headquarters of North Waziristan.
Addressing the Jirga, Haji Sher Ali Khan, the successor of legendry Faqir of Api, said the Waziristan tribes have always voluntarily served as a bulwark against any aggression on Pakistan from western borders. “The Waziristan tribes don’t want war,” he said. “However, we have fought and will continue to fight ‘un-Islamic forces’ in the region.”
Another tribal elder, Malik Sher Wali Khan, said they would take up the issue of recurring curfews with the local political agent, provincial governor and federal government. “If they fail to normalise the situation, then we will migrate to Afghanistan,” he added. “This will be the only option for us, if the state fails to secure us.”
Malik Azmatullah Khan claimed that last week’s air strikes caused huge civilian casualties. “This kind of military intervention should stop,” he said, adding that tribesmen from several areas of North Waziristan, including Miramshah, Machis Camp, Darpa Khel and Mirali, continue to migrate to Afghanistan. “We are trying to stop the tribesmen but they continue to evacuate for fear of an impending military operation in the agency,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 1st, 2014.
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