BANNU: Rumour has it that Hafiz Gul Bahadur, a militant commander allied with the Haqqani network, was killed in recent military air strikes in Datta Khel tehsil of North Waziristan Agency where a military operation has been ongoing since mid-June.
Military warplanes targeted a compound where 30 to 40 top commanders of Gul Bahadur’s Shura Mujahideen North Waziristan were having a consultative meeting, according to civil and military officials. Almost all of them were either killed or injured, the officials added.
On record, officials confirmed the death of top commanders like Maulvi Sadiq Noor, Akhtar Mohammad, aka Akhtar Jan, and Shera. However, they wouldn’t confirm the death of Hafiz Gul Bahadur saying “investigations are ongoing”. Fighter jets also bombed hideouts of militants in some other areas, including Palanga and Kasmeeza.
According to the military’s statistics, over 1,200 militants, including foreign fighters, have been killed in Operation Zarb-e-Azb that started on June 15. The military has made it clear on several occasions that the operation is indiscriminate, targeted at all local and foreign militant groups present in the region.
Operation Zarb-e-Azb was launched soon after Hafiz Gul Bahadur pulled out of a 2006 peace agreement with the authorities blaming the government for reneging on the accord. Hafiz Gul Bahadur had also asked local tribesmen to evacuate the region by June 10, 2014 and shift to neighbouring Afghanistan instead of taking shelter in camps set up by the government.
Besides being a stronghold of Hafiz Gul Bahadur, Datta Khel also hosts a large number of foreigner fighters, including al Qaeda fugitives. A day before the air strikes, the military claimed that senior al Qaeda operative Adnan al Lashkari al Jummah was killed in a US drone strike in a border area of South Waziristan Agency.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 9th, 2014.