WANA, April 2: Religious leaders here on Monday declared ‘jihad’ against Uzbek militants as local tribesmen and militant commanders continued to face stiff resistance from them.
The call came at a jirga of the Zallikhel and Tojikhel clans of the predominant Ahmadzai Wazir tribe at a playground in the administrative headquarters of South Waziristan. Hundreds of tribal elders and leaders representing the sub-clans of the tribe attended the jirga.
The Zallikhels had nominated a fellow tribesman, Nasib Khan, to raise a tribal force of volunteers in support of militant commander Maulvi Nazir to flush out Uzbek militants and their local collaborators from the region.On Sunday, local militants had made public announcements urging people to wage a ‘jihad’ against Uzbeks.
The jirga urged locals to shoot any Uzbek militants they came across. Rough estimates put the number of Uzbek militants in South Waziristan at a little over 1,000.
Official sources said two men were killed and two others wounded when militant groups supporting and opposing the Uzbeks clashed on Monday near a checkpoint.
An official acknowledged that the Uzbeks appeared to have received material support that had given them a shot in the arm in the face of prevailing public hostility against them.
“They have received some support, material support, I don’t know from where,” the official said.“They did not have Kalakovs until recently. They have Kalakovs now,” he said, adding that the locals were finding it hard to dislodge them from a strategic hilltop bunker in Shin Warsak near Wana.
The bunker was thought to have fallen to the local militants opposed to the Uzbeks last week following a barrage of artillery fire by the military garrisoned in Zari Noor army brigade headquarters.
But sources said that the fortified bunker built by the military remained intact despite artillery fire. “The artillery did not really have any effect,” they said. But they were confident that given time the local tribesmen and their armed militant supporters would be able to evict the Uzbeks from the region.
Asked whether the government or the military needed to come out more openly in support of the local tribesmen and militant commanders to enable them to evict the Uzbek militants, the sources said: “Support or no support, the Uzbeks will have to leave. It’s only a matter of time.”
The sources, however, said the Frontier Corps personnel manning the checkpoints in the region were turning a blind eye to Uzbek militants and the militant commanders supporting them.
They said the militants led by pro-Uzbek local commander Javed Karmazkhel were able to pass the checkpoints to clash with commander Nazir’s men.
A jirga of the Tojikhel sub-clan is meeting again on Tuesday to decide how to support the campaign to flush out Uzbek militants, sources said.
Monday’s jirga decided that those who provided support to foreign militants would be punished in accordance with the local customs and traditions.
A laskhar was authorised to demolish homes of supporters of the Uzbek militants, impose Rs1 million fine on them and expel them from the area with their families.
Sources said foreign militants had killed an uncle and brother of a local reporter working for a regional newspaper in Kaza Panga area and kidnapped his three relatives on Saturday. The journalist’s family also killed three attackers.
They said the journalist, Din Mohammad, was close to Maulvi Nazir and he had facilitated a team of journalists to meet two militant commanders opposed to the Uzbeks in Wana last week.