Drone strike near Khyber border kills nine, including driver of LI chief

Published March 24, 2015
Several people were also wounded in the drone strike whereas the identity of the victims could not be ascertained till the filing of this report.— AP
Several people were also wounded in the drone strike whereas the identity of the victims could not be ascertained till the filing of this report.— AP

PESHAWAR: At least nine suspected militants, including the driver of Lashkar-i-Islam (LI) chief Mangal Bagh, were killed in a US drone strike in Nazyan district of Afghanistan's Nangarhar province, near the Pak-Afghan border in Khyber Agency.

Shakir Sipah, a driver of Mangal Bagh who is the chief of the banned LI militant organisation, was among those killed in the drone attack.

Intelligence sources say that militants belonging to the proscribed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and LI militants organisations were killed in the strike.

Read: Lashkar-i-Islam merges into TTP

Other LI commanders who were killed were identified as Fazal Ameen, Shamat Khan Sipah and Wajid.

TTP commanders, including Yaseen, Zubair , Abdul Rehaman Shinwari and training instructor Zar Wali, were also among the dead.

The sources further said that the unmanned aerial vehicle targeted a suspected militant hideout with two missiles, completely destroying the compound.

Several people were also wounded in the strike.

The details could not be independently verified as the access of media personnel is severely restricted in the region. Militant hideouts have been frequently pounded by Pakistan's security forces in Tirah Valley area of Khyber region.

The outlawed Lashkar-i-Islam (LI) led by Mangal Bagh had recently merged itself into the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) under a reorganisation planned by militants.

The development comes at a time when security forces are making significant gains against militants in military operations in North Waziristan and Khyber Agency which were once considered their strong bastions.

Khyber is one of Pakistan’s seven semi-autonomous regions governed by tribal laws and lies near the porous Afghan border.

A military operation titled 'Khyber One' and 'Khyber Two' was launched by security forces and aimed at targeting militants in Khyber Agency, particularly the Tirah Valley of Bara which borders Nazyan.

The operations in Khyber tribal region were launched amid operation Zarb-i-Azb being conducted by the Pakistan Army in North Waziristan tribal region.

No one tracks drone strikes in Afghanistan — many of them take place in remote regions and are not reported — but Taliban commanders say that fighters there are being increasingly targeted since late last year.

The strikes also come amid warming relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan, traditionally hostile neighbours who accuse each other of harbouring insurgents to act as proxy forces.

Relations improved after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was elected last year. Pakistan says it is supporting potential peace talks between the Afghan government and Afghan Taliban.

Diplomats hope Pakistan can pressure Afghan Taliban with bases in Pakistan to negotiate. But Pakistan has also said it wants to see action taken against Pakistani insurgents with bases in Afghanistan.

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