At least 50 militants belonging to a self-styled extremist vigilante group from Khyber Agency have joined the Islamic State (IS). The militants, belonging to Amar Bil Maroof group, including commanders Haya Khan and Waheed, made the announcement at the remote Tirah valley late Saturday night.
A massive security operation, codenamed Khyber-I, has been ongoing in Tirah and Bara areas of the troubled agency since mid-October. Hundreds of militants have surrendered to civil and military authorities so far during the offensive targeted at all militant groups, particularly Lashkar-e-Islam of warlord Mangal Bagh Afridi.
The Amar Bil Maroof group was formed a decade ago by an Afridi tribesman, Haji Namdar, when two rival extremist groups headed by Mangal Bagh and Qazi Mahboob entered into an armed conflict against each other. Later, Niaz Gul of the Bar Qambarkhel sub-clan of the Afridi tribe became chief of the group.
A few days ago, leading figures of the group declared loyalty to the political administration. Stalwarts within the group said peace committees will be established to fulfill their territorial responsibilities as per the Frontier Crimes Regulation. While top Amar Bil Maroof leaders have not commented on the decision to join IS, tribal sources said the 50 fighters have opposed ‘Sarrishta’ (loyalty to the government).
Published in The Express Tribune, January 19th, 2015.
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