LANDI KOTAL: Hundreds of members of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan overran on Monday the last bastion of their rival group, Ansaarul Islam, in Tirah valley of Khyber Agency.
Sources said that Ansaarul Islam chief Maulana Mehboobul Haq and his lieutenant Ezzatullah Hamkhayal also fled their headquarters in Bagh-Maidan and took refuge in Pir Mela locality of Arhanga near the border of Orakzai Agency.
They said that Taliban blew up the Muhammadi Markaz in Bagh-Maidan and torched a number of houses, vacated by the supporters of Ansaarul Islam (AI) in the area.
“Taliban are now in full control of entire Bar Qambarkhel area including Bhutan Sharif, Haidar Kandaw, Dray Stany and Dray Plara in Lar (eastern) Bagh along with Bar (western) Bagh that fell to them on Monday after fierce resistance by AI supporters,” they added.
Sources said that with the fall of Bar Bagh, Taliban also took control of Angori, Kala Vuch, Arhanga Kandao and Shalobar Warsak heights.
The area is mostly inhabited by Malikdinkhel tribe that till recently was supporting AI in its fight against both Taliban and Lashkar-i-Islam.
Sources said that white flags were fluttering atop most of the houses in the entire Bar Qambarkhel and Malikdinkhel localities to show allegiance of local residents to Taliban.
Mr Hamkhayal, the deputy chief of AI, had only yesterday vowed in his radio broadcast that they would not surrender to Taliban and would fight till last man.
However, it was learnt on good authority that he along with his elder brother and AI chief had moved out of Bagh-Maidan a day after Lar Bagh area of Bar Qambarkhel fell into the hands of Taliban.
There were also reports that an army helicopter airlifted the two AI leaders, however, a security official in Peshawar denied such reports and said that security forces were carefully watching the situation in Tirah valley.
Control over the area, would provide Taliban with easy access to Orakzai and Kurram agencies and Afghanistan.
Taliban launched offensive against their one time ally AI in the third week of January after they accused the later of violating an agreement regarding free movement of the former in the region. However, AI denied that it had struck any such agreement with Taliban.
Taliban took control of the entire Kukikhel territory in May last year and had since been fortifying their position in Tirah valley.
Their control over AI strongholds in both Lar and Bar Maidan areas of Tirah forced hundreds of Bar Qambarkhel and Malikdinkhel families to shift to Sadda in Kurram Agency and Sangrha and Meshthi in Orakzai Agency.
Yar Asghar Afridi, a Bar Qambarkhel tribesmen currently residing in Peshawar, told Dawn that nearly 1,200 of Bar Qambarkhel families reached Durrani camp in Sadda while 300 to 400 Malikdinkhel families were on their way to Kurram Agency via Hangu district.
He said that security forces established a registration point for the newly displaced families from Tirah in Dogar area while Orakzai political administration arranged free food and transportation for them.
Mr Afridi said that the displaced families were forced to walk for almost 20 kilometres to reach Orakzai Agency as they had no transport facility.