Clashes kill 28 Taliban in Upper Dir, Swat
Tribesman in Upper Dir formed a tribal lashkar in response to the bombing of a mosque in the area. — Reuters (File Photo)
Wednesday, 17 Jun, 2009 | 04:25 PM PST | www.dawn.com
ISLAMABAD: Tribesman seeking to avenge a deadly mosque bombing killed six Taliban, while 22 suspected militants died in an ongoing military offensive, the army and police said.
Pakistan’s security forces are locked in a seven-week battle to expel militants from three northwest districts, a push informally joined by thousands of local tribesman in Upper Dir district this month.
As many as 3,000 villagers took up arms in early June, forming a militia — known locally as a lashkar — after 38 people were killed in a suicide bombing at a mosque in the district, which was blamed on the Taliban.
‘According to information we received, the tribal lashkar have killed six Taliban and destroyed their hideouts,’ Ijaz Ahmad, district police chief in Upper Dir, told AFP by telephone.
‘Some 3,000 armed tribesmen calling themselves tribal lashkar have launched an operation in the area. A total of 25 militants have been killed so far while some 12 to 13 were wounded in the tribal offensive,’ he added.
Local residents said about 20 militant hideouts have been destroyed and dozens of houses demolished during the ten-day revenge campaign, with Taliban fighters currently surrounded on a mountaintop in the Ghazigai area.
The government has in the past encouraged the formation of lashkar to help the official armed forces in their fight against militants, and say they want to build up and arm such community forces in the northwest.
The military launched its northwest push after the Taliban advanced to within 100 kilometres of Islamabad in early April, violating a deal to put three million people under sharia law in exchange for peace.
In a statement Wednesday, the army said they had killed 20 suspected militants in the last 24 hours in Lower Dir, while two more — including a militant commander — were killed in Swat district.
‘Elders of the area have decided and volunteered to organise defence committees for guarding against resurgence of terrorists,’ it said.
Pakistan’s army claims to have killed about 1,475 insurgents since the campaign began, however their tolls are impossible to verify independently.
The offensive enjoys broad popular support among Pakistanis exasperated by worsening Taliban-linked attacks, which have killed more than 1,995 people since July 2007.