Lashkar-e-Islam leader Mangal Bagh. Click to view images of the senior leaders of the extremist groups operating in the Khyber agency.
Pakistani police claimed that Mangal Bagh, the leader of a Taliban-linked terror group based in the tribal agency of Khyber, was killed during an operation there last weekend. The report is unconfirmed and a spokesman for the group denied Bagh was killed.
“The leader of the banned outfit is dead,” the chief of police in Peshawar told reporters in the city today, according to Pajhwok Afghan News. The police chief did not say how he knew Bagh was killed.
Mohammad Hussain, a spokesman for the terrorist leader, denied the reports of Bagh’s death, according to the news agency. Hussain said that Bagh is “alive and well,” Pajhwok reported.
Pakistani security forces launched a six-day-long operation from March 12-18 in the Tirah Valley in Khyber, a known stronghold of the Lashkar-e-Islam. The military claimed that 25 Lashkar-e-Islam fighters were killed during the operation. After the operation ended, the bodies of 14 people, whose faces were burned with acid, were found in nearby Bara, Pajhwok reported. Locals accused the Pakistani military of executing those killed.
Elsewhere in Khyber, the tribal lashkar, or militia, run by the Zakhakhel executed three suspected members of the Lashkar-e-Islam, according to The News. The Zakhakhel turned against the Lashkar-e-Islam last year after the tribe accused the terror group of kidnapping and executing its tribesmen.
The Pakistani military has allied with the Zakhakhel, despite the fact that the tribe has allied with Ansar-ul-Islam, another enemy of the Lashkar-e-Islam. The Ansar-ul-Islam is another local Islamist group in Khyber that supports jihad in Afghanistan and has used suicide attacks against the Lashkar-e-Islam.
The Lashkar-e-Islam is a Taliban-linked group run by Mangal Bagh [for more information, see LWJ report, A profile of Mangal Bagh]. Based in Khyber, the Lashkar-e-Islam has established its own Taliban-like government in large areas of the tribal agency, including in Bara, Jamrud, and the Tirah Valley. The group provides recruits to battle US and Afghan forces across the border, and has attacked NATO’s vital supply line which moved through Khyber before it was shut down by the Pakistani government in November 2011. The Pakistani military has targeted the Lashkar-e-Islam during five operations over the past two years, but has failed to dislodge the group from power.
The Tirah Valley is a known haven for the Taliban, the Lashkar-e-Islam, al Qaeda, and other Pakistani terror groups. These safe havens enable these terror groups to launch attacks inside Pakistan as well across the border in Nangarhar province in Afghanistan. In December 2010, the US killed Ibn Amin, a dual-hatted Taliban and al Qaeda military commander who operated in the Swat Valley, in a drone strike in the Tirah Valley. The Lashkar-e-Islam avenged his death by executing suspected four of its members who were thought to have betrayed Amin.