KHAR, Aug 10: Air force planes and Cobra helicopters bombed Lowi Sam and other areas of Bajaur Agency on Sunday, forcing thousands of people to leave their homes for safe places.

Witnesses said seven people were killed and dozens of houses were damaged in Lowi Sam and adjacent localities, including Banda Rashakai, Tang Khata and Charmang, while militants started moving towards Khar, the regional headquarters.

Helicopters continued heavy shelling till late in the evening.

The witnesses said that hundreds of militants armed with heavy weapons were taking positions on the outskirts of Khar town which housed government offices and the headquarters of Bajaur Rifles.

Militants also took control of the highway linking Bajaur with Mohmand Agency.

Two planes started bombing Lowi Sam and the area where militants had kept about 150 paramilitary soldiers under siege for three days. Local people said that several huge bombs dropped by the planes rocked the entire area.

The bombing continued throughout the day.

Helicopters attacked positions in Lowi Sam when the militants used anti-aircraft guns.

The witnesses said the bodies of seven non-combatants had been found in different areas and dozens of houses had been damaged or destroyed.

They said three people were killed when helicopters attacked a post of militants on a hill near Banda village. At least seven houses were damaged in Tang Khata.

Militants using an FM radio station called upon tribesmen to take up arms to defend themselves.

Hundreds of militants and their supporters dug bunkers and took positions around Khar and along the main highway. The militants’ Shoora decided in a meeting to take control of Saddiqabad and Inayet Kali, sources said.

Security forces vacated their makeshift checkpoints in Haji Lawang and Yousafabad and returned to the headquarters in Khar.

Local people were reported to be vacating Lowi Sam, Saddiqabad, Inayet Kali and Charmang and moving to safe areas. About 50 families have shifted to the adjacent Lower Dir district.

The sources said the militants handed over 12 bodies and some wounded paramilitary soldiers on Saturday night. Five bodies and 16 wounded soldiers were brought to Peshawar on Sunday. The wounded soldiers were admitted to the Combined Military Hospital.A witness claimed that he had seen two bodies in commando uniform near Lowi Sam.

The sources said the militants had taken apart two tanks and vehicles left by the paramilitary forces in Lowi Sam.

Planes also bombed houses of local Taliban commander Faqir Mohammad in Mamond tehsil, sources said. They said two planes dropped bombs on the houses of Faqir Mohammad in Sawai and Damadola areas.

The house of commander Shenai in Damadola was also bombed.

Reuters adds: A spokesman for the Frontier Corps said: “Fighting is still continuing and forces backed by helicopter gunships are targeting militants' positions mainly on the mountains. We have reports of over 100 militants dead.”

Nine soldiers had also died over the past four days, he said.

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