PESHAWAR: Lashkar-i-Islam, a militant outfit of Bara sub-district of Khyber tribal region, has suffered a string of major setbacks in areas linking up with the remote Tirah valley in a spectacular coordinated blitz, senior administration and security officials said.
“It was spectacular,” Political Agent, Khyber, Motahirzeb said. “Bara has now been cut off from Tirah. This has broken the back of Lashkar-i-Islam that has remained unchallenged in the area for seven years,” he said.
Inspector General, Frontier Corps, Maj-Gen Nadir Zeb said security forces were able to take over major heights in Meera Sar, Lawatta, Lakaro and Inzar, successfully cutting off the plains of Bara sub-district from Tirah valley.
“There was some heavy fighting and we lost some people but in the end we took control of the heights,” the IGFC said.
Backed up by helicopter gunships, soldiers from Pakistan Army, Frontier Corps and a tribal lashkar of Zakhakhel and its sub-tribe of Ziauddin launched an all-out attack on LI, leading to some heavy fighting.
Six men of the tribal lashkar were killed and seven wounded, while the security forces too, lost seven of their men, four of them died when they hit a landmine, sources said.
The tribal lashkar also launched an attack and captured an LI base camp at Astana, the sources said.
Officials said that LI was contemplating a counter-attack to recapture Astana camp, but arrangements were in place to face off the enemy.
This was the first time in seven years that the security forces entered the area and captured the heights that lay astride on the way to the remote Tirah valley on the borders with Afghanistan.
Officials said the operation was in line with the strategy to re-establish the writ of the government in Bara which has remained under curfew for over two years now, flush out LI from the area and cut off its links with Tirah valley that is now home to its chief Mangal Bagh.
Officials say that militants fleeing Orakzai could head to Tirah and if Bara was not brought under control, they could pose serious security threat to adjacent Peshawar.
“Tirah has been totally cut off. LI men will no longer have the luxury of riding bikes, pick-up trucks and mules,” Motahirzeb said. “The forces have done a commendable job and it must be acknowledged,” he said.