Following last week’s devastating suicide attack on a mosque in Darra Adam Khel, perhaps it is instructive to give a backgrounder to the agency where it is located – Khyber – so that the culprits behind the attack can be identified and tracked down.
There are seven Tribal Agencies and six Frontier Regions (FR) in Fata. FRs are the tribal areas located between two settled districts, not bordering Afghanistan. Darra Adam Khel is one such FR and comes under the administrative control of the deputy commissioner of Kohat. The area is administered through the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) by an assistant political agent. Located between Peshawar and Kohat, this FR is famous for manufacturing of all kind of weapons and is inhabited by five sub-tribes of Adam Khel Afridi.
In 2006, one Momin Afridi raised a small Taliban force in the area. Tariq Afridi, an activist of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, was appointed as number two of the force. Darra is a notorious hideout for criminals involved in car theft, kidnapping for ransom, fake currency business and the narcotics trade. As per the normal strategy of the Taliban, they initiated action against the known criminals of the area.
By 2007, the Taliban had succeeded in gaining the sympathy of some of the local tribals. They gained control of Darra Market, stopped barbers from shaving beards, banned music and imposed restrictions on girls’ education.
Tariq Afridi established contacts with Baitullah Mehsud and wanted the Darra Taliban to become part of the main Taliban organisation. Momin Afridi wanted to consult with the tribals before taking any such step. Within a few days, Tariq’s men killed Amin Afridi, a close associate of his rival Momin Afridi — and the latter fled to North Waziristan. In the spring of 2007, Tariq Afridi, along with about 20 Uzbeks and his force, conducted public executions of three alleged criminals. Tariq became the undisputed leader of the Darra Taliban. He started supplying weapons and ammunition to Baitullah Mehsud. Tariq’s strongholds were Toor Chappar and Bosti Khel. About 200 Uzbeks joined his organisation. The Taliban had control over the Peshawar-Kohat road, including the main bazaar. Criminals were executed publicly. In January 2008, the Taliban hijacked a military ammunition convoy, along with some soldiers. They kidnapped a Polish engineer in September 2008 and beheaded him when their demand for release of certain Taliban members was not met.
On January 25, 2008 the army initiated an operation in the area. By February, the Kohat tunnel and Darra Bazaar were secured. Most of the Taliban fled to Khyber and Orakzai Agency, including Tariq Afridi. The tribals, fed up of Taliban atrocities, decided to convene a jirga for the elimination of the Taliban from the area. On March 2, 2008, a suicide bomber attacked the peace jirga of the tribes and killed 47 tribesmen.
In August 2008, the Taliban re-emerged and captured the Kohat tunnel. A major operation was launched by the army in September 2008, which continued until December 2008. The Taliban had blasted and damaged the Kohat tunnel. Tariq Afridi fled to the Ghiljo area of Orakzai Agency. The tribesmen of the Amin Afridi clan extended their support to the security forces. Members of the Tariq Afridi group were identified and apprehended. Tariq Afridi is now believed to be in central Kurram Agency and is suspected to be responsible for the massive November 5 suicide attack on a mosque in Akhorwal area to punish the followers of Momin Afridi for cooperating with security forces. More than 70 men, praying in the mosque, died in this gruesome, inhuman act.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 9th, 2010.
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