LANDI KOTAL, Nov 29: Three important commanders and two senior shura members of banned Lashkar-i-Islam have parted ways with its chief Mangal Bagh after developing serious differences with him, it is learnt.
Credible sources told Dawn that the Lashkar's former spokesman Haji Zar Khan, Misri Khan and commanders Ghuncha Gul, Wahid and Tayyeb took refuge in Chora area after they were driven out of their stronghold in Bazaar-Zakhakhel.
The dissident group was at loggerheads with Mangal Bagh and his handpicked shura (council) over handling of LI affairs after a military operation against it in Bara subdivision of Khyber Agency. Sources said that the Tayyeb-led group was opposed to the alleged tactics of Mangal Bagh and his associates of kidnapping for ransom and physically eliminating his opponents.
Mangal Bagh used to deny these allegations and retaliated by accusing the dissident group of embezzling LI funds.
Clerics and sympathizers of LI persuaded the two groups to reconcile their differences. A meeting was set for them in Bazaar-Zakhakhel a week ago.
The conveners of the meeting reportedly told both sides to come unarmed to the meeting. But since the Mangal Bagh group rejected the condition, the dissident group too refused to come to the meeting, sources said.
They said that Mangal Bagh prevailed upon the conciliatory party and forced the dissident group to flee Bazaar-Zakhakhel and take refuge in Chora village.
A month before the reconciliation was attempted, commander Tayyeb had survived an attempt on his life when his vehicle was attacked with a remote-controlled roadside bomb. Though Tayyeb and his colleagues did not directly charge Mangal Bagh with the attempt on his life, they neither ruled out the possibility of his involvement.
When approached for his comments on the new developments, Khyber Agency Political Agent Shafeerullah Khan said that though he was aware of rift in the top cadre of LI yet “the picture was not yet fully clear to him.”
However, sources said that authorities were trying to establish contacts with the dissident group through “middle men.”
The Khyber Agency administration is also trying to raise a peace committee in Bara to neutralise the influence of Mangal Bagh and his associates in the area.
Ironically, all the top leadership of LI is on the wanted list of both the political administration and army and all of them had gone into hiding after the start of military operation in Bara in September last year.
Miseries of the LI chief have increased with a sizeable number of LI young volunteers having deserted him. The deserters either took refuge in different parts of Bara or shifted to Punjab and Sindh provinces.