Badhaber assault: 5 attackers traced to Swat, Khyber

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Interior ministry says eight others were foreigners.

Interior ministry says eight others were foreigners.

PESHAWAR / ISLAMABAD / BARA / JAMRUD / SWAT: 

Five of the 14 terrorists who mounted Friday’s brazen assault on the Badhaber air force camp have been traced to Khyber Agency and Swat, once again bringing these restive regions in the spotlight and widening the scope of investigations for security officials and intelligence agencies.

The identities were determined by the country’s top registration body – the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) – after fingerprints of the assailants killed in Friday’s brazen assault were sent for verification.

The results apparently did not go down well with the country’s security czar, who ordered an inquiry into the ‘information leak’ that could ‘hurt the investigation process’. The interior ministry said in a statement that the Nadra record showed eight of the terrorists were foreign nationals.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar said Nadra in coordination with other agencies was still checking the identities. “The cowardly attack reflects the defeated mindset of the militants,” he said. “The fight against terror will continue till its logical conclusion.”

The ministry spokesperson said more time was needed to determine the militants’ identities. The authorities, he said, knew since day one that some militants were foreigners but the media was not told about it due to the sensitivity of the matter.

However, a senior police officer told The Express Tribune that three of the attackers were from Khyber Agency while two were from Swat. “We took their fingerprints and provided them to Nadra. Five of them matched with the records,” he said. “We have also collected DNA samples, which can be matched with their family members.”

Sirajuddin, Ibrahim and Adnan were found to be from Kamarkhel, Sipah and Akakhel tribes, respectively, living near Bara in Khyber Agency. Muhammad Ishaq and Rab Nawaz were from Swat. “We are trying our level best to identify the rest of them,” he said, adding the bodies of the others were charred, however.

The official also did not rule out the possibility of some of the attackers being foreigners.

Officials from the Bara political administration and other sources claimed that five relatives of Sirajuddin, 20, were arrested on Sunday. They included his father, two paternal cousins, another relative and an elder, who had signed his identity card documents.

The Kamarkhel tribe resides in Baz Garha and Kamarkhel. They have also been living as internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Jalozai Camp of Nowshera and other areas due to the military operation in Khyber Agency. A large proportion of the tribe has, however, been repatriated. Sources said the political administration had all the record of the IDPs, therefore the family of Sirajuddin was traced easily.

Another attacker Ibrahim, 27, from the Sipah tribe belonged to the Spin Qabar area of Bara, sources said. Notorious militant leader Mangal Bagh, who heads the banned Lashkar-e-Islam religious extremist group, also hails from the same tribe and area, which is around six kilometres away from the Bara Bazaar. Sipah tribesmen are still living in IDP camps, as they have yet to hand over some wanted militants that the political administration had asked for before their repatriation.

Adnan, 19, belonged to the Madakhels – a sub-clan of the much larger Akakhel tribe – from either Tirah Valley or Bara tehsil. This tribe was repatriated in the first phase after the operation. An official of the political administration said the record of all tribesmen who were displaced and then repatriated from Bara tehsil was available and the attacker’s family links would be found soon.

An insider confided with The Express Tribune that a jirga between the political administration and tribal elders of Bara might be convened today (Monday) at Khyber House in Peshawar. At the Pump House in Jamrud, Khyber Agency’s Political Agent Shahab Ali Shah and Commandant Swat Scouts Colonel Naeemullah also held a meeting with Kukikhel and Mullgori tribes.

The suicide bomber who had attacked the political administration officials in front of the Jamrud tehsil office on September 1 was from Kukikhel tribe. The Kukikhels were asked to eliminate militants from their areas within 10 days or the security forces would take indiscriminate action against them.

The Khyber PA also warned of stopping all incentives of those tribal elders who were using delaying tactics in helping the administration. The tribesmen were offered up to Rs1 million cash prizes for sharing information about militants.

Senior security officers believe Khyber Agency still has a pocket which houses militants close to the Afghan border and which will be cleared soon while the operation is still expanding.

In Swat meanwhile, more than 47 suspects were rounded up from different areas for interrogation after two of the attackers, Nawaz and Ishaq, were found to be from the district. A security official in Swat told The Express Tribune that the process of establishing the family links of the two slain militants was under way.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 21st,  2015.

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