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Militants Clash With Security Forces Near Peshawar
Lashkar-i-Islam demand reconstruction of their headquarters
Ghafar Ali Khan (ghaffar)     Print Article 
Published 2007-04-23 05:51 (KST)   
Armed militants of Lashkar-i-Islam (LI), whose headquarters was demolished last week by the Musharraf administration, clashed with paramilitary forces on Sunday injuring a major of the Mehsud Scouts as well as three schoolchildren.

The militants burned down five check posts of the paramilitary forces, and then ransacked the Bara market, destroying a number of shops. LI leader Mangal Bagh had announced through his illegal FM channel that if the paramilitary forces were not withdrawn from the site of their destroyed headquarters by Sunday morning they would stage a protest.

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On Thursday, the administration -- backed by the paramilitary forces -- demolished the headquarters of Lashkar-i-Islam in Bara Tehsil of the Khyber Agency near Peshawar. None of the members of the group was arrested in the operation as they had already vacated the premises having been given prior notice by the administration.

The clash occurred when LI militants in the Mandi Kas area of Bara tried to take control of the headquarters belonging to a rival group led by Pir Saif-ur-Rehman. The paramilitary forces deployed at a check post denied the militants access to the area.

Miffed, the LI militants opened fire on the check post, injuring a major and three local schoolchildren. The children were among the protesters.

Before attacking the headquarters of the rival group, hundreds of schoolchildren and armed supporters of LI stormed the Bara bazaar and set fire to at least five check posts of the Khasadar (tribal police) force.

The protesters then went on a rampage and destroyed a number of music and cell phone shops in the market. The security force resorted to firing in the air and lobbing tear gas canisters to disperse the protesting students and LI activists.

So far, security forces have refrained from making arrests. Anticipating the protest over the demolition of LI headquarters, the local administration had directed the vendors to close their shops to avoid damage.

A few weeks ago, the LI had demanded that the local administration hand over the property belonging to Pir Saif-ur-Rehman, the leader of Ansar-ul-Islam, a rival group. They also demanded the unconditional release of their leader Mufti Munir Shakir and the removal of the paramilitary forces from their destroyed headquarters on Nala-Malikdin Khel. They warned of the consequences if their demands were not met by Sunday.

The area's assistant political administrator said that though the situation was now under control but that curfew would be imposed if the situation demanded it.

Meanwhile, the elders of the Malikdin Khel, a sub-tribe of the Afridi, have announced a boycott of the local administration and demanded the reconstruction of its demolished headquarters in Kohi-Malikdin Khel.

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©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Ghafar Ali Khan

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