KHAR/PESHAWAR: Six people were killed in the five-hour-long clashes that ensued when around 300 armed militants early Thursday crossed into the Bajaur tribal region from the neighbouring Kunar province of Afghanistan and stormed three villages inhabited by the pro-government Mamond tribesmen.
The dead include three tribesmen, two women and a paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) soldier. “Seven tribesmen sustained injuries and 20 others were taken away by the fleeing militants to the neighbouring Kunar province,” sources said.
This is the second time in recent weeks that militants intruded into Pakistan from Afghanistan and carried out attacks in border villages. A few days ago, a large number of militants had attacked the Shaltalo village in Upper Dir district after overrunning a security checkpoint manned by the poorly- armed police and Levies force.
There has been no official statement by the government or the military about the latest incursion by the militants from Afghanistan. However, security officials have confirmed the attack by the militants in Bajaur. They say around 300 armed militants managed to enter Bajaur from Kunar and started attacking the villages where the tribesmen had recently raised tribal Lashkars and announced their support to the government and armed forces. The militants, they say, were affiliated with the Bajaur Taliban commander, Maulvi Faqir Mohammad.
According to officials, nine militants were also killed and several others injured in the clashes in Manro Zangal, Mukha and Sarkai villages located on the border. The villagers have reportedly set up security posts near villages on the border as they had already received threats from the militants evicted from Bajaur during the military operation.
The tribal sources said the villagers retaliated and the fighting between the two sides continued for five hours. Both sides reportedly used heavy arms reportedly used heavy arms against each other. There were reports that the villagers and members of the tribal lashkar later ran out of ammunition and requested the military authorities and government officials for help and reinforcement.
The security officials said contingents of the Frontier Corps and Bajaur Levies were sent to the area and fought shoulder-to-shoulder with tribesmen against the militants. Before the FC and Levies could reach the remote border area, which is about 60 kilometres northwest of Bajaur’s headquarters Khar, the FC men deployed on the border arrived and joined members of the tribal lashkar in resisting the militants. There were also reports that two gunship helicopters were sent to the area to support the Pakistani security forces and tribal lashkar.
“Fierce fighting continued till 10am on Thursday after which the militants started retreating to their hideouts in Kunar province,” a security official said. Pleading anonymity, he said security forces and villagers had cleared Bara Mukha village of the militants while efforts were underway to clear Manro Zangal village.
“With joint efforts of the forces and villagers, 95 percent area of Manro Zangal has been cleared of the militants while Sarkai is expected to be cleared by Friday morning,” the official added.
The latest attack by militants on a massive scale has sent a wave of concern among the tribesmen living along the border with Afghanistan. The government had launched a major military operation in Bajaur on August 2008, which is still going on. The operation had forced 500,000 tribespeople to leave their homes and villages.