LANDI KOTAL, Feb 3: More than 300 Kamarkhel families were forced to leave their houses as outlawed militant group Lashkar-i-Islam strengthened its control over the northern part of Takhtaki area in Tirah valley of Khyber Agency.
Situated at a high altitude, the picturesque Takhtaki, inhabited mostly by Khoedadkhel sub-tribe of Kamarkhel, witnessed some bloody clashes between Kamarkhel Amn Sareshtha, a local peace committee, and Lashkar-i-Islam (LI) during the last one week.
The clashes left more than 20 persons dead and several others injured from both sides.
Ali Mat Khan, a resident of Takhtaki, told Dawn that his family along with some 300 others left the area. The residents of the area shifted to Bagh-Maidan, Orakzai, Hangu, Peshawar and Cherat during the last three days, he added.
He said that LI members were in control of Lar Kallay, Bar Kallay and Shengarhi localities, situated in the northern part of Takhtaki.
He said that except for a few young Kamarkhel tribesmen, who surrendered to LI and joined the group, the rest of the population moved out of the area.
Mr Khan said that the evicted Kamarkhel families were in dire need of shelter and assistance as they left all their belongings at their homes back in Takhtaki.
He said that a number of women and children fell ill due to chilly weather as they travelled through some hostile terrains before reaching Orakzai, Hangu, Peshawar and Cherat.
Mr Khan said that not a single family had gone to Jalozai camp as officials of Khyber Agency political administration had made no arrangements for accommodating the newly displaced people from Tirah.
Khiyal Mat Shah, another resident of the area said, that volunteers of the local peace committee backed by Ansaarul Islam activists were occupying bunkers in Tor Lagad and Lakai Sar area in the southern part of Takhtaki.
He said that LI was in control of a major portion of Takhtaki and the remaining areas would also fall into its hands within a few days as the Kamarkhel committee was short of arms and volunteers as most people had moved out of the area.
The Kamarkhel tribe maintained its neutrality during the last seven years of hostility between LI and Ansaarul Islam and did not allow any of the militant groups to either occupy their area or establish hideouts in any part of Takhtaki.
Capturing of strategically important Takhtaki will also expose the defence lines of Ansaarul Islam to its all time foe, Lashkar-i-Islam. Both the groups fought some fierce battles in the past to gain control of the entire Tirah valley.
Now with Taliban knocking at the doors of Bagh-Maidan, the AI headquarters, and the near-fall of Takhtaki to LI, Ansaar will find it difficult to hold its feet in the areas under its control.
According to sources, some of the AI leaders, who are affiliated with Jamiat Ulama-i-Islam-Fazl, are trying to persuade the central leadership of their party to broker a ceasefire between Lashakr-i-Islam and Taliban.
It was also learnt that Ezzatullah Hamkhayal, the AI deputy chief, had secretly travelled to Islamabad to hold talks with JUI-F central leadership to halt the Taliban advance on their headquarters.