HANGU/ DI KHAN/ JAMRUD:
After a relatively longer hiatus, warplanes again bombed bases of suspected militants in a remote valley of Khyber Agency Friday evening, killing at least 48 terrorists and injuring over a dozen more, officials said, adding that the death toll could go up as reports are still pouring in from the region.
Acting on intelligence-based information, fighter jets targeted hideouts of militants in the Meherban Kelley area of Tirah Valley, according to the military’s media wing, the ISPR. Militants from the banned groups Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Mangal Bagh-led Lashkar-e-Islam (LeI) were the main targets, it added. Almost all militant hideouts in the area were decimated and all those inside were either killed or injured.
Tribal sources said almost all tribesmen have left Meherban Kelley and its surrounding areas. However, militants had organised a weekly bazaar in the area where they and their sympathisers came to purchase replenishments. Some sympathisers of militants were also caught in the air blitz, tribal sources added.
The latest air raids were the first this month and came after a break of a couple of weeks. It also came a day after Mangal Bagh’s LeI and TTP Jamaatul Ahrar announced merger with Mullah Fazlullah-led TTP at a meeting somewhere in Afghanistan. The LeI is based in Tirah Valley but offers shelter and facilitation to other groups, including the TTP, on ideological grounds.
Security forces launched an operation, codenamed Khyber-I, against militants of all hues, particularly the LeI, in Tirah Valley and Bara in mid-October, last year. Hundreds of militants have been killed and many more have surrendered so far during the operation, according to official sources. Tribesmen have also raised Lashkars (legions) to aid security forces against militants.
Kokikhel tribesmen of Khyber Agency’s Jamrud tehsil also initiated action against militants but local elders are disappointed with a lack of official support. They have complained to the authorities and asked for official support to uproot militants from the troubled region.
Meanwhile, paramilitary troops from the Khyber Rifles, a wing of the Frontier Corps, arrested two suspects during a raid in the Maidanak Lashora area of Jamrud on Friday. They were shifted to an undisclosed location for interrogation while their names have not been shared with the media.
In a related development, security forces recovered three high intensity improvised explosive devices (IEDs) from Hangu district and Kurram Agency. Security said two wanted militants have also been taken into custody during the raids. They added that the IEDs weighed over 20 kilograms each.
In other violence, unidentified men detonated explosives at a shoe shop in Wana, the administrative headquarters of South Waziristan Agency, Thursday night, a local administration official told The Express Tribune. The shop is located in Wana Bazaar, the official added. There were no casualties from the explosion for which no group immediately claimed responsibility.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 14th, 2015.
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