PESHAWAR: The entry of over 200 foreign fighters into the restive Tirah Valley of Khyber Agency and Mangal Bagh’s escape to Afghanistan has further complicated the situation in the tribal areas since the armed forces are busy conducting operation Zarb-e-Azb against militants.
According to highly placed sources, army chief General Raheel Shareef has, besides Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Mullah Fazlullah and Maulvi Faqeer, included chief of the defunct Lashkar-e-Islam (LI) Mangal Bagh into the list of wanted militants currently present in Afghanistan.
Sources said that Jamaat-ul-Ahrar has already announced their support to LI in fighting against the armed forces in tribal areas.
“Mangal Bagh has escaped to Afghanistan and has hence become the third wanted person for Pakistan. Army chief General Raheel Shareef has discussed him too during his meetings in his visit to the United States,” sources said, adding that Pakistan had discussed Mangal Bagh with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in his recent visit to the country as well.
Sources also said that soon after Jamaat-ul-Ahrar extended support to LI in fighting against the armed forces in the tribal areas, over two hundred foreign fighters joined LI and reached the restive tribal areas.
“It happened soon after Jamaat-ul-Ahrar announced LI’s support. The foreigners include Arabs, Tajiks and Uzbeks and that is the reason why the armed forces have been experiencing some resistance in Khyber Agency as compared to the North Waziristan Agency,” sources said requesting anonymity.
When contacted, security officials confirmed the reports on foreign fighters’ entry into Tirah valley but said that the number of foreigners was around 50 to 60 and at the same time added that the forces were committed to rooting out militancy from the region.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 21st, 2014.