Local elders in Diamer on Wednesday handed over to security forces 15 suspects who allegedly facilitated those involved in the torching of schools in Diamer earlier this month, police said.

Diamer Superintendent Police (SP) Muhammad Ajmal said the suspects were wanted for their involvement in terrorist activities, including the burning of schools, and had facilitated other incidents.

The suspects had surrendered themselves to the elders and police during a joint search operation in the mountains of Diamer, the SP said.

He added that the search operation would remain ongoing until more suspects were arrested.

Strict legal action will be taken against them, SP Ajmal said.

On the night of August 2, more than a dozen schools — half of which were girls-only centres — had been burned down in Diamer by unidentified assailants.

According to an initial report of the incident, the "miscreants" carried out the attacks in an "organised manner". The assailants first vandalised the buildings and then set them on fire, said the report.

The report also claimed that the investigation uncovered "important evidence" that suggested that foreigners and some local facilitators were involved in the incident.

A grand operation was launched in the area to trace and arrest the culprits following the decision of a meeting attended by senior officials of security forces, law enforcement agencies, civil administration as well as locals. Later a police official was martyred and another official was wounded in an exchange of fire with armed men during a raid on a house in Tanger tehsil.

On August 5, a judge going to attend the martyred police constable's funeral had escaped unhurt in a gun attack. However, the armed men who were hiding in the mountains continued to attack police and other government vehicles to stop them from using the roads leading to Tanger and Darel tehsils of Diamer district. Even locals faced difficulties in passing through the area.

Police said the prime suspect allegedly involved in the torching of girls schools, Shafiq, was killed in Tanger on August 5. However, sources earlier told Dawn that the suspect was killed allegedly by the relatives of the policeman who had been attacked during the raid on a house on Saturday.

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