PESHAWAR: With a major military operation expanding into the restive Khyber Agency, Bara-based militants warned local tribesmen on Tuesday against leaving the area — a move aimed at using the local population as human shields.
Local and official sources confirmed that militants made announcements on the radio, warning that they would take over and blow up the houses of those who leave the area or pledge support to the government.
The militants have already destroyed the homes of around 30 of their own fighters, including two militant commanders, who had surrendered to the authorities.
Ealier, key commanders of the outlawed militant group Lashkar-i-Islam (LI), Hafi Faqeer and Malam Khan, had surrendered to the security forces along with more than 80 of their men.
Militants later destroyed the homes of LI activists who had defected and surrendered to the government.
Today's threat has followed after the political administration of Khyber Agency's three-day deadline to the militants in the Jamrud and Bara areas to lay down arms and surrender or face a full-fledged operation. Pamphlets containing the message and deadline were dropped from helicopters into the Jamrud and Bara areas of the Khyber tribal region two days ago.
An estimated 180 families from Bara already moved out to the Jalaozai area in the wake of the recently launched operation, Khyber 1, while many others were heading towards different safe zones.
At least 30 suspects militants have died during the ongoing operation which was launched on information about the presence of militants in parts of Sipah and Akkakhel areas, according to Shahab Ali Shah, Khyber agency's political agent.
Mangal Bagh-led Lashkar-i-Islam has had a strong presence in the areas being targeted in the operation.
Anticipating a military operation in their areas in Tirah valley, hundreds of Akkakhel families had begun leaving their homes in Dars Jumaat, Shaddaly, Darota and Kulla areas of Akkakhel in Tirah valley.
Khyber is one of Pakistan’s seven semi-autonomous regions governed by tribal laws and lies near the Afghan border. The Taliban and other Al Qaeda-linked groups who stage attacks in both Pakistan and Afghanistan are also known to have strongholds in the zone.
The latest operation was launched amidst 'Zarb-i-Azb', a full-fledged military operation being conducted by the Pakistani military against Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants in North Waziristan tribal region.
Zarb-i-Azb was launched on June 15 following a brazen militant attack on Karachi's international airport and failure of peace talks between the government and TTP negotiators.
The Taliban and their ethnic Uzbek allies both claimed responsibility for the attack on Karachi airport, which was seen as a strategic turning point in how Pakistan tackles the insurgency.
Nearly a million people have fled the offensive in North Waziristan, which is aimed at wiping out longstanding militant strongholds in the area, which borders Afghanistan.