LANDI KOTAL, Oct 21: Thousands of locals fled Bara tehsil on Friday as security forces moved in with tanks and artillery to clear the troubled areas of Khyber Agency of militants.

Officials in the local administration said that residents of Mandi Kas, Yousuf Talab, Jansi, Malakdin Khel and Sipah were forewarned to leave their abodes in view of the imminent military operation against militants.

Thursday saw bloody clashes between the security forces and militants in Bara which reportedly left 34 militants and five soldiers dead.

Maqbali Khan, a resident of Yousuf Talab area, told Dawn that local administration made announcements through mosque loud speakers and local FM radio station on Thursday night asking locals to vacate their houses by 12:00 noon on Friday for security reasons, adding that the deadline was later extended to 03:00pm.

He contested political tehsildar Farooq Khan's claim that his administration arranged transport for the deserting families and said most of the people, including women, children and the elderly, went to safer places on foot carrying their belongings.

The political tehsildar said people were asked to go to Jalozai camp near Pabbi but they either stayed with relatives in nearby Bara villages or moved to Shiekhan, Naway Kalay, Batta Thal and Badabher areas near Peshawar. “Not a single family has so far reached Jalozai camp,” he said.

Suhbat Khan, a former agency councilor and a resident of Malakdin Khel, said he struggled to shift his injured aunt to hospital due to unavailability of public transport in the area, adding that his aunt was critically injured when a stray mortar fell on his house on Thursday.

He said most of the families had to leave their belongings, including cattle, after they were ordered to leave on Thursday for safer places without delay though there was no transport available to them.

An official of the local administration said people were told to leave the restive areas ahead of the military operation so as to minimise collateral damage. He said over the last couple of days, around a dozen people, including women and children, died of the critical injuries inflicted on them by mortar shells, which the militants fired at their houses.

The official said nearly 1,000 families left the area after notices were served on them to go away.

Speaking to Dawn by phone from an undisclosed location, a spokesman for Lashkar-i-Islam denied the killing of 34 of the banned militant outfit's militants by security forces in Malakdin Khel on Thursday and claimed that only five of its armed volunteers were killed in the clashes.

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