Thirteen people were killed and several others injured on Sunday in the first-ever face-to-face clash between the militants and the tribal Lashkar in one of the militants’ strongholds, Mamond Tehsil. The dead included head of the Lashkar Malik Fazle Mabood.
The Lashkar, reportedly comprising hundreds of armed tribal volunteers, led by noted tribal elder Malik Fazle Mabood, launched a crackdown on the militants on Sunday, demolishing hideouts and houses of the local Taliban fighters in various villages, including Kaga, Bandary, Batmaley and Landay, when the Taliban retaliated.
Tribal sources told The News by telephone from Mamond that fighting between the militants and the Mamond tribesmen was still going on in most parts of the Mamond Tehsil. The sources said the clashes between the militants and tribesmen started on Sunday morning when the Mamond tribal Lashkar started burning and demolishing hideouts of the militants.
The Lashkar had hardly demolished eights houses of the militants and was planning to destroy some other alleged hideouts at Bandary and Kaga villages when Taliban fighters sitting atop the houses opened fire on the Lashkar men, killing Malik Fazle Mabood on the spot.
According to sources, the Mamond Lashkar also retaliated and reportedly killed four militants. Hasbanullah Khan, a tribal journalist based at Khar, the headquarters of Bajaur, while quoting residents of the Mamond Tehsil, said the militants and the Mamond tribesmen had taken positions against each other in various parts of the troubled region. There were also reports that besides Fazle Mabood, another tribal elder was also killed in the fighting but his name could not be ascertained.
Also, the residents of Mamond said the militants in retaliation burnt houses of some tribal elders in the area. The residents said it enraged the neutral Taliban tribesmen, who began fighting alongside their fellow tribesmen against the militants.
The sources said four militants were killed during the shoot-out with the Lashkar people. The pro-government elders later sought aerial support from the government after which military gunship helicopters were sent to pound militants’ positions. Military authorities said six militants were killed and several others injured in shelling by the military helicopters.
The tribal sources said two tribesmen were also killed when an artillery shell hit a vehicle at the Omari village in Mamond. It may be recalled here that the Mamond tribal Lashkar had given a three-day deadline to the militants operating in Mamond on Thursday to either leave the area or surrender to the Jirga.
The Lashkar started action against the militants when the deadline expired on Sunday as the militants neither left the region nor surrendered to the Jirga. The government has been pressing the Mamond tribesmen to raise tribal Lashkars and take on the militants operating in their area.
Some tribal elders said they had already explained to the authorities that it was beyond their power to take on the militants. “When jet fighters, gunship helicopters and artillery shelling could not eliminate the militants, how will the untrained and poorly armed tribal people finish them in Bajaur?” asked a tribal elder, pleading anonymity, while talking to The News from Mamond.