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Pakistan actually doing something! Surprise, Surprise

Interesting Article: Pakistan Army Widens Assault on Islamic Guerrillas near Peshawar by ANWAR SHAKIR / Peshawar published Wednesday, October 26, 2011
According to the recent article by Anwar Shakir, based in Peshawar, an offensive which initially targeted two villages southwest of Peshawar has expanded to five localities in the Khyber Agency (tribal district). The Pakistan army sent units of its main force in FATA, the paramilitary Frontier Corps, to root out militants in the villages about 5 miles southwest of Peshawar. According to the reporter's sources, this was in response to Taliban-allied guerrillas that had ambushed an army convoy on Oct. 20, triggering a battle in which 34 militants and three Pakistani soldiers died. So who are these guerrillas?


The fighting is the latest eruption of a seven-year-old rebellion led by a local man, Mangal Bagh, whose Lashkar-e-Islam (LI) guerrillas (a paramilitary organization operating in Khyber Agency, Pakistan (see map on right)) are loosely allied with Pakistan’s Taliban movement. Bagh’s fighters have threatened security in Peshawar and have attacked NATO supply convoys on the highway from the city to the Khyber Pass border crossing, the main overland trade route to Afghanistan.  In 2008, when Bagh’s men made incursions into Peshawar, the military launched an offensive and blew up his home. Mangal Bagh (also known as Mangal Bagh Afridi), is the leader of Lashkar-e-Islam. Several Pakistani newspapers have referred to him by title as Haji Amir Mangal Bagh. He is from the Bara tehsil (Bara is a city HQ for a group of villages located in Khyber Agency, Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Pakistan), and belongs to the Sipah Afridi tribe (a Pashtun or Pathan tribe from present day Afghanistan and Pakistan). Bagh was a local driver that 'inherited' a pirate radio ministry after the former founder was ousted by the village elders for a mosque bombing. He went onto take control of the LI and further militarize it. The Council on Foreign Relations lists LI as one of several groups operating in FATA which constitute the "Pakistani Taliban." As of 2008, the group is suspected to have over 180,000 fighters in Khyber Agency. What is interesting is that even though the organization shares some of the same ideology as the Taliban, it is not necessarily an offshoot of it. Further, there seems to be infighting among all these Jihadi groups as well, for example, LI exchanged prisoners with its rival group Ansarul Islam (AI) and Zakhakhel tribal lashkar in Tirah valley of Khyber Agency, on October 4, 2011. The sources said that the LI freed three volunteers of AI in exchange for its four fighters who had been captured by the rival groups in Sandapal area of Tirah valley a few months back. A commander of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) held several rounds of talks and finally made both the groups agree to free their detained associates. Similarly, the TTP also mediated between LI and Zakhakhel lashkar and convinced them to free some of the prisoners. LI went onto release two members of Zakhakhel tribe in exchange for three of its militants. With this infighting taking place, perhaps the Pakistani's should look to working with one of their rivals to eliminate them, and then in turn take out their allies when convenient.


References:
Cur correspondent Mangal Bagh warns women against casting votes The News (Pakistan), 15 Feb 2008
Sonya Fatah FM Mullahs Columbia Journalism Review August 2006
Ghafar Ali Khan Pro-Taliban Group HQ Destroyed Near Peshawar Newsvine.com 29 May 2007.
Jayshree Bajoria Pakistan’s New Generation of Terrorists Council on Foreign Relations, February 6, 2008
Lashkar-e-Islam claims membership of 180,000 volunteers in Khyber Agency South Asian Terrorism Portal 18 April 2008

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