The Forgotten Battle for Tirah Valley

Mar 2013

Thousands of men, women and children have fled Tirah Valley in Khyber Agency, after the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) successfully gained control of the area last week. Ibrahim Shinwari reports on the battle, and the lives, forgotten by a Pakistan in the grips of election fever.

Ali Akbar Shalobar, 35, was left with no other choice than to escape his native village of Warsak, when he saw marauding Taliban insurgents executing innocent residents who had surrendered to them after they took over the Ansaar ul Islam (AI) controlled areas of Tirah Valley on March 18.

“I shouted at my three children and my wife, and told them to close their eyes or look the other way when the Taliban slit the throat of one of our neighbors and set his house on fire”, Ali Akbar said with an emotional voice, choking as he narrated Taliban atrocities against the innocent people of Tirah.

Leaving behind everything except for his wife’s jewelry, which he hurriedly collected, he, along with his wife and three children, walked on foot for three days and managed to reach Dabori area in Orakzai Agency via the Arhanga Pass in order to save their lives and their honour.

He now shares a tent with a relative at Jalozai camp in Nowshera district, but said that his children could not sleep for three days because they had blisters on their feet after the long walk across a rugged terrain.

Shafiqullah, a Bar Qambarkhel resident and an AI sympathizer, said he had a narrow escape after Taliban captured the Haider Kandaw stronghold of AI and executed all his colleagues after they lay down their arms. “Luckily, I had been sent home to fetch some food by my fellow AI fighters, when they were overrun, and later killed, by the Taliban,” said Shafiqullah.

The Taliban capture of Lar (western) Bagh and Bar (eastern) Bagh, inhabited by Bar Qambarkhel and Malikdinkhel tribes respectively, forced the entire population of the area to escape for safety.

Shafiqullah said that they fought hard for almost six years to protect their area from another militant group, Lashkar-e-Islam (LI), which is still occupying areas in Tirah that fall under the jurisdiction of Bara subdivision.

“But the Taliban offensive was so sudden and powerful that we couldn’t hold our ground and managed, with great difficulty, to flee the area”, Shafiqullah said and added that the Taliban were far more well-equipped and well-trained.

The residents of Bagh-Maidan rallied under the leadership of Qazi Mehbub ul Haq and formed AI in early 2006 when Mangal Bagh, the renegade amir of LI, a Bara based banned militant group, wanted them to announce public allegiance to his group. Mangal Bagh wanted all the major tribes of Bara–the Malikdinkhel, Sipah, Shalobar, Bar Qambarkhel, Kamarkhel, Zaoddin-Zakhakhel, Akkhakhel and Adamkhel–to send volunteers to his armed wing of the organization, and the well-to-do families to contribute financially to his group.

AI refused to accept the hegemony of LI, and thus LI declared a war against it in mid-2006. Both the groups had fought some fierce gun battles over the last six years, which resulted in the killing of more than five hundred people from both sides. None of the sides conceded their territory to each other. Read on >>

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2 Responses to The Forgotten Battle for Tirah Valley

  1. Mohammad zafar afridi on May 2013 at 9:01 AM

    der afsos sa weyam 6 mnga de afridi sra der zulumuna wakru khu in sha Allah Allah pak de tirah ao bara khiar khaiyt sra kolao ki de election de Allah de pa agha sra wa gate 6 kam a mnga agency tarike werki.khyber agency salute kawam

  2. […] The Forgotten Battle for Tirah […]

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