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Tribal lashkar attacks Taliban

September 01, 2008

KHAR, Aug 31: A lashkar of the Salarzai tribe launched a campaign against militants on Sunday, attacked their strongholds in the area and destroyed 10 houses and a number of the so-called ‘command’ centres in the Bajaur tribal region. Militants, in the meantime, freed six soldiers they had earlier kidnapped.

Before deciding to launch the operation, the Salarzai tribe held a jirga in Pashat and warned local and foreign militants of dire consequences if they did not leave the area. The Lashkar also started a ‘search operation’.

The tribe has raised a Lashkar of more than 4,000 volunteers. Malik Munasib Khan, who is leading uprising against the militants, said that the houses destroyed by the volunteers included one of militant leader Naimatullah, who had occupied several government schools and converted them into seminaries.

Helicopters and ground-based artillery heavily shelled militants’ positions in Sewai, Shago and Sheen Koti areas of Mamond tehsil.

Security forces are reported to have targeted a base of militants in Sewai in Mamond tehsil where mortar shells fell on the house of another militant commander known as Sheena.

In Shago area, six extremists were reported to have been killed in the evening when a helicopter targeted a vehicle trying to evade detection by using a dried rain channel.

It may be mentioned that Prime Minister’s Adviser on Interior Rehman Malik had announced on Saturday that the military operation would be suspended from Sunday night for the holy month of Ramazan.

The militants responded to the government’s announcement by freeing six Frontier Corps soldiers who were handed over to a tribal elder Malik Abdul Aziz.

“We have released them as a good will gesture and to honour the sanctity of Ramazan. We welcome the government’s ceasefire offer for the holy month,” Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan spokesman Maulvi Umar told Dawn on phone.

He said that his organisation had released six of the 30 troops they were holding. He said that the soldiers had been captured during the operation in the Lowi Sam area earlier this month.

Expressing Taliban’s readiness to release the remaining soldiers, he said the government that it would be conditional to the release of militants detained by the government.