LANDI KOTAL: Taliban on Monday laid siege to Bagh-Maidan in Tirah valley, where headquarters of Ansaarul Islam (AI) militant group are located, after taking control of some strategic heights around the area.
According to sources, the heights of Haidar Kandaw, Narhaw, Ziyarath Sar, Bucha and Angori fell to Taliban after they launched a major offensive.
The offensive also brought Bar Qambar Khel area under the control of Taliban. It is being described as a major achievement for them — similar in significance to expulsion of the Kukikhel tribe from their areas in May last year.
Sources said Taliban were locked in a fierce gunbattle with Ansaar volunteers to capture Kala Voch, the last major base of AI which leads to Malikdinkhel area.
The sources said the fall of Bagh-Maidan to Taliban was a matter of time now as they had captured the five heights overlooking the plains of Maidan from three sides.
The areas of Tirah adjacent to Orakzai are already under the control of Taliban. Thus all the escape routes for AI and its supporters have been plugged by Taliban.
Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told Dawn on phone that they had decided to confront the Ansaars after they killed some of their volunteers and plugged their supply routes, thus breaching an agreement they had signed a year ago.
He said they would avenge the killing of their comrades and expel AI from all of their strongholds.
And while Ehsan declared a war against AI, a spokesman for Darra Adamkhel-based Tariq Afridi group of Taliban, Muhammad Afridi, said they were not involved in the conflict, which he described as ‘un-Islamic’.
Earlier, AI spokesman Saadat Afridi claimed that his group had wrested at least 25 villages in Mamozai area of Orakzai near Tirah from Taliban.
He also claimed that the Ansaars had killed 15 Taliban and captured five of them.
However, his claims could not be verified through independent sources.
In another major development, the Bara-based militant group and another foe of AI, Lashkar-i-Islam, took control of Takhtaki, which is mostly inhabited by the Kamarkhel tribe.
The sources said it was for the first time that LI was able to ‘conquer’ Takhtaki, which is situated at a high altitude and whose inhabitants had remained neutral so far.
They said volunteers of Kamarkhel peace committee offered some resistance, but could not prevent LI fighters from occupying their bunkers.
It is learnt that military planes bombed Takhtaki area soon after it was captured by LI. Sources said an important commander of LI, Gul Marjan, was killed in the air strike.