Kukikhel areas of Tirah fall to militants
LANDI KOTAL: Taliban took full control of Kukikhel-dominated areas of Tirah as more families left their homes and moved to Jamrud.
Sources said that besides fortifying their positions in the newly-occupied localities, Taliban had also torched houses of some Kukikhel elders in Bagh and Sra Vela. They said Taliban in announcements made on loudspeakers from local mosques had asked residents to hoist white flags atop their houses and volunteer one person from each family to join the Taliban.
“The entire Tirah valley, except Bazaar Zakhakhel, is now under effective control of three militant groups, Tehrik-i-Taliban
Pakistan (Tariq Afridi group), Mangal Bagh-led Lashkar-i-Islam and Ansaarul Islam,” confirmed Bakhtiar Mohmand, assistant political agent of Jamrud.
He said that while Taliban entrenched themselves in Kukikhel areas, Mangal Bagh was holding the fort in Sipah and Malikdinkhel areas, but the Zakhakhel tribe was in control of Bazaar Zakhakhel.
The official said that his administration had made arrangements to shift Kukikhel families to Jalozai camp, established for internally displaced families of Bara, but so far no-one had approached them.
“Most of the displaced families have opted to live with their relatives in different parts of Jamrud and only a few were without any abode but they too were reluctant to go to Jalozai and preferred rented houses,” he said.
Muhammad Irfan, a resident of Jamrud, told Dawn that except for Puk Darra and Daman-i-Koh, all areas, including Sra Vela, Bagh, Pathai, Ghakhai, Baarhi Saporhi and Maniyakhel, had fallen to Taliban and residents had moved to Ali Masjid and Ghundi in Jamrud. He however, denied that any offer had been made by the political administration to any of the displaced families and said they had not received any assistance from local authorities.
He said residents of Puk Darra and Daman-i-Koh were also eager to leave their homes for fear of Taliban, but all routes leading to Jamrud and Bazaar Zakhakhel were either occupied by Taliban or activists of Lashkar-i-Islam. Muhammad Irfan conceded that the Kukikhel lashkar which was no match for the Taliban had to succumb to the Taliban pressure.
He said that except for two Kukikhel elders in Tirah, Malik Zabita Khan and Malik Zaboor, all other notables were against the formation of a lashkar or peace committee against Taliban in Tirah. “We were short of arms and ammunition and financial resources whereas Taliban were well-equipped and well-trained and, therefore, we would not be able to hold our ground for long against them,” he acknowledged. He also said that while Malik Zabita Khan and his family had come to Jamrud, Malik Zaboor fled to Afghanistan.
Both the Kukikhel elders had in February this year convened a jirga of their tribe and ordered all militant groups including Taliban to leave their area or face resistance.
In 2010, Taliban of the Tariq Afridi group established some hideouts in Dwa Thoe and Mehraban Kali after they had been forced to flee from Darra Adam Khel by security forces. Clashes have been taking place since then with Taliban carrying out at least two suicide attacks against Kukikhels in 2010 and 2011, killing more than a hundred tribesmen.
Khaistha Gul, another Kukikhel tribesman, said they had lost their homes and agricultural land to Taliban. The Kukikhels were also forced to surrender their arms at the Nakai checkpost near Nari Bara established by Lashkar-i-Islam.
He thanked the Al Khidmat Foundation which, he said, had set up a relief camp at Ali Masjid where displaced families were getting food and water. It was also providing transport to those who wanted to move to other places.