Tribesmen resist Taliban advance in Pakistan, six killed


Peshawar : Hundreds of armed tribesmen Wednesday exchanged fire with about a dozen pro-Taliban militants as they tried to enter Pakistan’s northwestern Buner district from the neighbouring Swat valley.

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“When people learned about the presence of Taliban in the area they came out with their weapons and surrounded them,” said Mohammed Siddiq, who himself participated in repelling the outsiders in Shalbandi village.

“Six Taliban were killed and six more were arrested, while three of our men received injuries,” he added.

Residents of Buner, a district with a population of about 700,000, decided in a tribal assembly over the weekend to ban Taliban from extending their activities into the area. Government troops are carrying out an offensive in the Swat valley against the followers of radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah.

“We want neither Taliban nor military here. We cannot allow anyone to turn our streets into battlegrounds,” said Sadiq.

Last week, more than two dozen heavily armed insurgents from groups based in Swat Valley attacked a police checkpoint in the district. Seven policemen and one junior officer from the paramilitary Frontier Corps died in the exchange of fire.

In the Khyber tribal district that borders Afghanistan, an attacker gunned down militant leader Haji Namdar, his men confirmed.

The lone assailant shot the radical cleric with an assault rifle when he was delivering a sermon at the headquarters of his Virtue and Vice organization in Qambar Khel area.

“The attacker has been captured and moved to an undisclosed location,” said Namdar’s spokesman Haji Mansaf Khan, who witnessed the killing.

It was not clear who was behind the assassination. Some media reports in the past claimed that Namdar had angered local Taliban by defecting from their ranks. He survived a suicide attack May 1.

Pakistan’s tribal areas serve as sanctuaries for Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters who launch cross-border attacks on the US-led international forces in Afghanistan.