Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Pakistan-Afghan border: Terrorists kill soldiers

After the Pakistani Army's strike on a religious school (madrassa) last week in Bajaur, in which 80 terrorists were killed, this was to be expected:

"A suicide bomber has killed at least 35 soldiers at an army training school in north-west Pakistan, officials say. It is the deadliest attack by militants on the army since it began operations against pro-Taleban and al-Qaeda fighters close to the Afghan border. " More...

One of terrorists known to have died in the attack in Bajaur is Maulana Liaqat, the head of the madrassa that was targeted by the Pakistani Army's missiles. Maulana Liaqat was a leader of the pro-Taliban movement, Tanzim Nifaz Shariat Mohammadi (TNSM), that spearheaded a violent Islamic movement in Bajaur and the neighbouring Malakand areas in 1994. The TNSM also led some 5,000 men from the Pakistani areas of Dir, Swat and Bajaur across the Mamond border into Afghanistan in October 2001 to fight US-led troops.

Another local cleric, Maulana Faqir Mohammad, currently heads the TNSM in Bajaur. Mohammad was also wanted by the Pakistani government for harbouring Taliban terrorists and training fighters for the war in Afghanistan. It was thought that Faqir Mohammad had also been killed in Monday's attack but he later turned up at the funeral where he made a speech condemning the raid and vowing to continue support for "jihad against the Americans" in Afghanistan.

"...a sign of the attention that the Mamond valley is receiving from the US and Pakistani authorities. The valley, which constitutes an administrative sub-division of Bajaur agency, has housed training camps for both Afghan and Kashmiri militants in the past. The local population hosted a large number of Arab mujahideen during 1980s and 1990s, and opened up to the influence of some extremist factions of the Islamic Brotherhood. The area served as an important staging ground for Afghan and local mujahideen to organise and conduct raids as far afield as Kabul during the days of the Soviet occupation.

The area was targeted in air raids by Soviet jets and helicopter gunships which aimed for mujahideen camps but often hit civilian targets. It still hosts a large Afghan refugee population sympathetic to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a mujahideen leader ideologically close to the Arab militants. A one time protégé of Pakistan's ISI intelligence agency, Mr Hekmatyar is still reported to be operating in the area. The US says militants based in Bajaur launch frequent attacks on American and Afghan troops in the adjoining Afghan province of Kunar. " More...

Note: many of the terrorists in Bajaur managed to escape by taking shelter behind women.

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