At least five people were killed and seven injured in a suicide attack targeting members of a peace committee in a remote valley of Khyber Agency on Wednesday amid claims that a NATO helicopter violated Pakistan’s airspace and flew over another area of the agency that shares a long border with Afghanistan.
A suicide bomber walked up to a checkpoint manned by volunteers of a local peace committee in the Peer Mela area of Tirah Valley and detonated the explosives strapped to his body, according to officials from the local political administration. Five people, among them two children, were killed and seven others injured in the bombing.
The injured were driven to local private clinics where medics said that some of them have received life-threatening wounds.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the suicide attack but officials suspect involvement of the Mangal Bagh Afridi-led Lashkar-e-Islam (LeI) extremist group. The LeI has been fighting a bloody turf war with another group, Ansarul Islam, in the region which has claimed hundreds of lives over the past few years.
Of late, security forces claimed that they had purged Tirah Valley of militants as a result of a series of sustained military actions. However, militants succeeded in regrouping due to the strategic location of Tirah Valley which lies on the confluence of borders of three tribal agencies – Khyber, Orakzai and Kurram.
Pakistani military’s warplanes have frequently targeted hideouts of the Taliban in the valley as a large number of militants, who had fled Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan Agency, are said to have found shelter here.
The latest violence came four days after a remotely piloted US aircraft bombed a compound of suspected militants in the Chancharano Kandaw area of Tirah, killing four militants, among them Sheikh Imran Ali Siddiqi, member of the Central Council of al Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent.
The suicide bombing happened amid reports that NATO helicopter violated Pakistan’s airspace and flew over the Torkham area of Khyber Agency. Tribal sources claimed that the helicopter intruded into Pakistani territory at 11am and flew overhead for a couple of minutes.
Officially, there was no confirmation of the airspace violation, while officials from the political administration refused to comment on the matter. Some officials, however, said that Nato forces were engaged in military action across the border in Afghanistan. Their actions are confined to the Afghan territory and no violation of Pakistani airspace happened on Wednesday, they added.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 16th, 2014.