Taliban kill pro-govt militia leader in Bajaur

KHAR: Taliban fighters killed a pro-government militia leader in northwest Pakistan’s Bajaur district, where helicopters have been shelling insurgent hideouts, officials said Wednesday.

The body of Malik Manaris Khan, 47, was found riddled with bullets early Wednesday in Salarzai town, about 20 kilometres northeast of Khar, the main city in Bajaur, which is in the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.

“He was kidnapped on Monday along with two other tribesmen. Today (Wednesday), we found his dead body,” said Naseeb Shah, a local administrative official, blaming the Taliban movement for the abductions.

“He was leading an anti-Taliban lashkar (militia) in his village.”

It was the latest in a string of such killings in Bajaur, where anti-Taliban militias are particularly strong, angering the insurgents.

Salarzai and surrounding areas also came under fire from Pakistani military helicopters, with shelling targeting suspected Taliban hideouts beginning Tuesday and continuing on Wednesday morning, security officials said.

“Helicopter gunships have been shelling Taliban hideouts in Salarzai and the adjacent town of Mamoond since Tuesday,” Shah said.

Another government official said that the shelling had killed at least six militants and wounded another four in the last 24 hours.

“We have reports that at least six militants were killed and four wounded. Helicopter gunships also destroyed several hideouts and some trenches,” Firamosh Khan, an administrative official, told AFP by telephone.

Bajaur was the scene of a major anti-militant operation in August 2008 and in February last year the military said the area had been secured.

But unrest has rumbled on, and the military have again been staging ground and air assaults on Bajaur, part of an ambitious new push against Taliban strongholds across the northwest launched last year.

Pakistan sent about 30,000 troops backed by fighter jets and helicopter gunships into Taliban stronghold South Waziristan in October, and says they are making progress and that militants are fleeing.

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