x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Taliban kill Pakistani tribal elder

Taliban armed with rockets and grenades stormed the home of a pro-government Pakistani tribal elder, killing him, his wife and son before blowing up the house.

Taliban armed with rockets and grenades stormed the home of a pro-government Pakistani tribal elder today, killing him, his wife and son before blowing up the house, officials said. The predawn killings underscored the threat Islamist militants pose in Pakistan's lawless tribal district of Bajaur since the military widened the front to South Waziristan and the district of Orakzai, where 23 rebels were killed overnight.

The group of Taliban attacked in Asghar village, about 40 kilometres northwest of Khar, the main town in Bajaur, which borders Afghanistan. "Malik tur Mulla, his wife and a son died in the attack while one woman was wounded," Irshad Khan, a local administrative official, said by telephone. The son was 22 years old, Mr Khan said. Mulla, 52, raised an anti-Taliban militia in the Chaharmang valley and returned home last year after the army claimed the area was secure following prolonged fighting aimed at crushing Islamist militant sanctuaries.

"Taliban militants attacked the house. First they fired rockets and hurled hand grenades. Then they entered. They killed Malik and his family with Kalashinkovs," Jamil Khan, a local government official, said. Two intelligence officials described Mulla as an active tribal elder in the area who supported military operations against the Taliban. Pakistan launched operations in the district in August 2008 and has claimed several times to have eliminated the Islamist militant threat.

Bajaur is at the northern tip of the semiautonomous tribal belt that Washington calls the most dangerous place on Earth. The district has seen a spike in attacks since security forces opened new fronts against the Taliban elsewhere. Pakistani troops killed at least 23 militants on yesterday in Orakzai, another of the seven districts in Pakistan's tribal belt, where soldiers have been battling the Taliban since March, security officials said.

The late-night clashes broke out in Kasha and Mishti Mela villages, and jet fighters pounded targets in Daburi and Ghalju villages on Thursday, a spokesman for the Frontier Corps paramilitary said. "We have reports that 23 militants were killed in these clashes. We also have reports of militant casualties in today's air strikes. I have no figure," a security official in Peshawar said. Pakistani forces went into Orakzai on March 24 in a bid to flush out Taliban who escaped last year's major assault on South Waziristan, where the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leadership had its headquarters.

The TTP, blamed for a bombing campaign that has killed 3,300 people across Pakistan over the past three years, grabbed the global spotlight after the United States blamed it for the failed May 1 car bomb plot in New York. * AFP