BARA: The dreaded and most wanted Swati Taliban commander, Ibne Amin, was reportedly among the militants killed in the US drone strike in Khyber Agency’s Tirah valley on Thursday.
A senior commander of the Mangal Bagh-led Lashkar-e-Islam told The News that Ibne Amin was killed along with six other militants who were his bodyguards when the missiles fired by the drone hit his vehicle.
Pleading anonymity, he said Ibne Amin was among the seven militants killed in the Lashkar-e-Islam-controlled territory in Tirah valley’s Spindrand area located some four kilometres southeast of the Afghan border.
Ibne Amin belonged to Kuz Shawar village in Matta Tehsil of Swat district. The government in May 2009 announced Rs15 million as head money for him. He was a close lieutenant of Maulana Fazlullah, the leader of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Swat chapter.
Ibne Amin, who was less than 40 years old, became a feared TTP commander when he started torturing and killing opponents of the Taliban in Swat. He rose in the militant ranks and at one time it was said that he was the most powerful man in the TTP Swat after Fazlullah. One of his brothers was earlier killed in fighting with security forces and reports of Ibne Amin’s death had also circulated in the past.
According to intelligence sources, Ibne Amin also had links with al-Qaeda. The Khyber Agency has witnessed three US drone attacks over the last four days in which about three dozen militants from Lashkar-e-Islam and TTP were killed along with some civilians.
The Lashkar-e-Islam commander who broke the news about Ibne Amin’s death said Ibne Amin had been engaged in reconciliation efforts for the last several days to bring together the factions of Lashkar-e-Islam. “Last week, I met Ibn Amin in Chora area of Jamrud Tehsil where he had come to talk to Tayyab Afridi, the leader of dissident group in Lashkar-e-Islam who had fallen out with his leader Mangal Bagh,” he recalled.
Tayyab Afridi was expelled by commander Khan, a confidant of Mangal Bagh, from Bazaar valley in Landikotal Tehsil on November 27. “After his fruitful talks with Tayyab Afridi, Ibne Amin left for Nangrosa area in Tirah valley to see Mangal Bagh but the latter avoided meeting him as he was not interested in reconciliation,” the Lashkar-e-Islam commander said.
He said Ibne Amin stayed behind and waited to see Mangal Bagh in Nangrosa, Sandana and Spindrand areas of Tirah populated by the Sepah tribe until he was killed in the drone attack along with his six guards on Thursday.
Sources in Tirah valley said al-Qaeda and TTP leaders had expedited efforts to resolve differences between various militant groups operating in the border region of Pakistan to coordinate their operations. “Ibne Amin’s role as a mediator was part of these efforts,” the sources said.
The sources said after the Taliban defeat in Swat as a result of the military operation last year, Ibn Amin had moved to Afghanistan to fight foreign forces and then moved to Tirah valley in Khyber Agency where he had established bases and training camps for Swati Taliban. The sources said he was in close contact with Maulana Fazlullah in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, two Lashkar-e-Islam (LI) commanders, Yar Azam and Mehmud, succumbed to injuries they had sustained in two consecutive US drone attacks on the headquarters of their organisation in Sandana area of Tirah Valley in Khyber Agency on Friday, local sources said on Sunday.
With the death of the two commanders, the toll reached 34. Among them were 32 militants associated with the LI, and two civilians including a prisoner, who was in the custody of the militants.
It is for the first time that the US drones targeted the LI, a local militant organisation that has confined its activities to Bara Tehsil of Khyber Agency unlike the TTP. The LI has been fighting Pakistani security forces since the launch of military operation against it in September 2009.
On Thursday, seven militants, including Commander Ibne Amin belonging to the TTP Swat chapter, were killed in the US drone attack on a vehicle in Spindrand village near Sandana in Tirah valley.
The drone struck the LI headquarters in Sandana, also known as Khushal Markaz, at around 10 am on Friday when the militants were gathering for a meeting. The militants were busy in a rescue operation to remove the bodies from the rubble when the unmanned CIA-operated Predators mounted the second attack. Besides the death of 32 people and injuries to a dozen others, a nearby jail built in caves was damaged in the two attacks. More than a dozen prisoners survived the attack. The injured were shifted to nearby clinics run by LI instead of Bara or Peshawar due to fear of arrest.
The LI lost eight commanders from Sepah tribe in the attacks. They included Yar Azam, Mehmud, Mir Jan alias Fuzi Shafi who was a retired sepoy of the Frontier Constabulary, Rasheed, Mazaar Khan, Hassan and Mashri Khan.
The first drone attack in Khyber Agency was reportedly carried out on a vehicle in Mangal Bagh Kandaw area of Tirah, leaving 13 militants of TTP Swat chapter dead on May 15, 2010. The sources said a US drone continued flying over the area on Sunday.