LANDI KOTAL: Twenty-one suspected militants were killed on Thursday when military planes pounded positions of the outlawed Lashkar-i-Islam group in the Akkakhel area of Khyber Agency.

Five hideouts of the Bara-based militant group were destroyed in the air strikes.

The Inter-Services Public Relations said in a statement that in “early morning precise aerial strikes in general areas of Tirah in Khyber Agency, 21 terrorists were killed and five hideouts were destroyed”.

Khyber Agency Political Agent Shahab Ali Shah told journalists that a precise military offensive had been launched against militants holed up in Sipah and Akkakhel areas.

He said that ‘Operation Khyber 1’ was launched on credible information about the presence of militants in parts of Sipah and Akkakhel areas.

“No timeframe of the operation has so far been set...it will continue till the clearance of...areas of all undesirable elements,” Mr Shah said.

Meanwhile, security forces stationed at Meel Wat and Fort Salop pounded militant hideouts with heavy artillery in different localities of Bara. A curfew was also imposed in parts of Bara and all entry and exit points were closed.

More families reportedly arrived in Orakzai Agency after they fled Akkakhel because of military operation being carried out there.

Sources said that fresh army contingents aided by artillery, tanks and armoured personnel carriers had reached Akkakhel and parts of Sipah where Mangal Bagh-led Lashkar-i-Islam had a strong presence.

The families said militants had threatened them that their houses would be torched and their belongings looted if they left the area. They said Lashkar-i-Islam wanted to use innocent men, women and children as human shield if security forces started an operation against militants.

LI spokesman Mohammad Umar said Akkakhel residents were not fleeing and insisted that no military operation was being conducted in areas under LI’s influence. He denied having prevented any person from leaving the area.

Officials of the Fata Disaster Management Authority confirmed the recent influx of internally displaced persons from Akkakhel and said they had set up a registration desk in Jalako Mela locality of Orakzai Agency with the help of the political administration.

They said 4,285 people, including 1,192 women and 2,136 children, had so far been registered.

Published in Dawn, October 17th, 2014

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