LANDI KOTAL, Jan 5: Unidentified gunmen blew up on Friday night an abandoned mosque in Bara where proscribed militant organisation Lashkar-i-Islam was formed about eight years ago.

Official sources said that scores of armed persons came in vehicles, forcibly opened the locked mosque in Nala-Malikdinkhel and planted explosives in it. The building of the mosque was razed when they detonated the explosives, they added.

Built in early 2004 by a local elder Haji Rabat adjacent to his house, the mosque became a centre of activities when firebrand cleric Mufti Munir Shakir set up an illegal FM radio station inside it and started delivering fiery speeches against his rival Pir Saifur Rehman, a spiritual leader of Afghan origin.

It was the same mosque where Mufti Munir Shakir formed Lashkar-i-Islam in December 2004 after Sipah and Malikdinkhel tribesmen announced their full allegiance to him. However, the cleric was expelled from Bar Qambarkhel area after only six months owing to his extremist views and differences with Haji Namdar, another militant commander of the area.

Both Mufti Munir Shakir and Pir Saifur Rehman were forced to leave Bara after a jirga of local elders gave a consensus verdict following bloody clashes between the supporters of the two in early 2005. Bangal Bagh, a bus driver-turned-militant was elevated to the position of amir (chief) of Lashkar-i-Islam in May 2005 in the same mosque.

Security forces demolished the house of Haji Rabat and destroyed the FM radio station set up in the mosque after they started the first military operation against Lashkar-i-Islam in mid-2005.

Mangal Bagh was forced to flee Bara and took refuge in Gogrina area of Bazaar Zakhakhel.

The mosque, however, remained intact and was later closed down after most of the Malikdinkhel tribesmen were forced to leave their houses when a third military operation was launched against LI in September 2009.

The mosque remained locked since then and was blown up on Friday night by a group of unidentified persons. Nobody claimed responsibility for the  incident, which is first of its type in Bara since the formation of at least five militant groups.

Meanwhile, Khasadar Force on Saturday sent back two containers taking unspecified supplies to Nato forces in Afghanistan.

Both the containers were stopped at Takhta Beg checkpost and were later ordered to go back to Peshawar. Officials did not give any specific reason for not allowing the containers to proceed to Torkham border.

In Ghundi area of Jamrud tehsil, khasadars arrested at least 16 suspects during a search operation on Saturday.

Officials said that forces cordoned off the area early on Saturday morning and conducted a house-to-house search operation, during which 16 suspects were arrested.

Though officials gave no specific reason for the search operation, a week ago militants had blown up a government school in the area. A young man was also killed in the blast.

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