PESHAWAR: Several militant groups are likely to face off in a clash as armed fighters have started taking positions inside Afghan territory near Pakistan's Mohmand agency bordering Afghanistan, reliable sources told Dawn.com on Saturday.
Groups of fighters comprising Lashkar-i-Taiba, Ansarul Islam, Afghan Taliban militants and local militia have started taking positions inside Afghan territory, safe havens for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) from where they are known to have previously launched attacks inside Pakistan, the sources said.
The sources said an assault was imminent against the outlawed TTP militants, who have waged a war against the Pakistani state and launched several attacks against its Army.
Ehsanullah Ehsan, a spokesman for the banned militant group, confirmed an attack was planned against Pakistani Taliban positions inside Afghanistan’s Kunar province bordering Pakistan, but warned it may result in major bloodshed.
“We have old enmity with Ansarul Islam and some other militant groups who want to avenge their own fights and losses now. They are planning a major attack on us in the bordering areas along Mohmand Agency,” he said, speaking via telephone from an undisclosed location.
A Taliban insider said that the clash might be a continuation of the killing of militant commander Shah Sahib, who led another Islamist group engaged in fighting US-led Nato troops in Afghanistan and was based in Mohmand Agency since 2006.
TTP militants led by Umar Khalid Khurrasani attacked the training centre of the Shah group on July 19, 2008, killing many, including Shah Sahib. Most of the Shah Sahib loyalist were either kidnapped or killed and the group was eliminated from the Mohmand agency.
Most members of the group are presently part of tribal lashkars (local militias), and the attack being planned was part of their strategy to fight the TTP, said the Taliban insider.
Several Pakistani security personnel have been killed in attacks by hundreds of Taliban militants from alleged safe havens across the border in Afghanistan’s Kunar, Nuristan and Nangarhar provinces bordering Pakistani territory from Dir to Chitral.
Former Pakistani Ambassador to Afghanistan, Rustam Shah Mohmand said there were fears of a huge security vacuum following the planned withdrawal of US and Nato troops from Afghanistan.
The Afghan government has effectively no authority over the vast territory along the Pak-Afghan border, turning it into safe havens for militants, he said.
Shah called the recent tension "a fight for the territory and resources in the bordering area rather than a big clash."
"There is no writ of the Afghan government along the bordering belt with Pakistan. Both Afghan and Pakistani militants have their own interests in the region and infighting is only natural," he said.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Lashkar-i-Taiba denied any involvement in the events on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
We are not part of any operation against any Taliban group either in Pakistan or Afghanistan, he said, claiming that their operations were only targeted against Indian forces and limited to Indian-administered Kashmir.