ISLAMABAD - The initial investigation into the killings of 15 Frontier Constabulary (FC) men has ascertained the involvement of Lashkar-e-Islam, a militant offshoot of TTP having strong influence in the parts of Pakistan’s north-western tribal belt, it is learnt.
Officials at a law enforcement agency and privy to the probe believe Mangal Bagh Afridi, head of the banned LI, is the prime suspect in the manslaughter saga. In consequence of this development, the security forces are set to tighten noose against Bagh and his two close aides, who had reportedly kidnapped the FC officials and carried out their executions after a fortnight, after failing to get their aides release from the security forces custody. The LI is mainly concentrated in Khyber Agency with Bara reported to be the headquarters of the terrorist organisation.
It is to recall here that the dead bodies of 15 FC men, who were kidnapped last month, were found from North Waziristan on Thursday. Claiming responsibility of the killings, TTP Spokesman Ehsaanullah Ehsaan had termed the killed ones as “traitors’, who, according to him, were punished for siding with security forces against what he had termed the Islamist forces.
“They were traitors and every traitor deserves death penalty. Whosever dares fight the Islamist forces be deemed a traitor and shall be awarded an exemplary punishment,” Ehsaan had said in a conversation with this newspaper last week. He had not named the TTP offshoot that carried out the killings.
Secretary Law and Order Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) Captain (r) Tariq Hayat Khan did not disclose the specifications of the investigation but confirmed that the suspected involvement of LI into the manslaughter was one of the pertinent aspects being looked into. He also confirmed some arrests in this connection. “The believed involvement of LI is being probed in detail. Every aspect is being investigated. We have nabbed some militants as well but it’s a sensitive matter you know, I cannot get into the detail,” he told this journalist.
The Nation on January 6 had reported about the suspected involvement of Laskhkar-e-Islam into the 15 killings.
The information available suggests that Mangal Bagh Afridi had tasked his two close aides Naimatullah Mehsud and Qari Nazirullah Nazir with kidnapping the FC personnel from Tank. Naimatullah is reported to be a relative of slain militant leader Qari Zainuddin Mehsud while Nazirullah, a local commander of TTP in Khyber Agency, is reportedly hiding in North Waziristan. Both the militants managed to abduct the Frontier Constabulary men later in December.
Reportedly, Bagh and his accomplices demanded release of detained TTP militants for the safe return of the kidnapped security officials. The negotiations between Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government and LI continued for two weeks and upon failure, Bagh ordered killing the FC personnel.
The development has seriously questioned the credibility of security agencies claims regarding the elimination of militancy in FATA. Pakistan Army, its paramilitary wing Frontier Corps and Frontier Constabulary had launched a joint operation to take on Mangal Bagh and his men and to avert incursions from Afghan side in Bara, a sub-division of Khyber Agency. Launched in October last year, the operation, according to the military, was a success. Several small-scale military offensives are also underway in Aurakzai, Kurram, ands South Waziristan agencies as well as Malakand Division. However, the assassinations of FC men coupled with the failure of security forces to nab Mangal Bagh have pointed towards serious challenges confronting FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Khyber Agency’s Political Agent Muttahir Zeb, on the other hand, claimed that the security forces had destroyed the major dens and safe havens of the militants and the remaining miscreants would be eliminated soon, he said. “Key militant commanders are killed. Some of them have taken refuge in remote mountainous terrains. The military offensives continue to eliminate militants. We are hopeful that the remaining ones would be wiped out soon,” Zeb told The Nation.