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Taliban, Haqqani factions attack tribal rivals in North Waziristan; 10 dead


N-Waziristan-HQN-Tribal-clash.jpg

At least 10 people, including five local Taliban, have been killed and dozens injured after hundreds of Taliban fighters loyal to Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Sirajuddin Haqqani clashed with local anti-Taliban tribesmen in the Shawa area of North Waziristan.

The fierce clash, which involved artillery and heavy weapons and lasted more than a day, subsided around April 20 after Pakistan deployed helicopter gunships to "disperse" the hundreds of militants, who were about to overrun the besieged villages. Tensions continue, however, as hundreds of heavily armed fighters from both sides remain dug in among the rugged hills of Shawa. The roadway linking Shawa and Thal is still cut off due to militant roadblocks, leaving dozens of wounded civilians desperately stranded.

The clash began late on April 18 after Taliban fighters laid siege against local Wazir Qabul-Miamai Khel* tribesmen loyal to Haji Shah Mahmud and Malek Karim Khan. A spate of abductions and retaliatory murders between the two sides earlier this month had prompted the explosion of violence, pitting Hafiz Gul Bahadur's more dominant Utmanzai Wazir (Madda Khel) Taliban militia against a cadre of former Tehrik-e-Taliban members led by prominent Qabul-Miamai Khel tribal leader Haji Shah Mahmud and his extended family: Malek Karim Khan, Sayed Sattar, Rasheed Khan, and Jehanzab Khan.

Approximately two weeks ago, gunmen loyal to Sayed Sattar assassinated a local Taliban commander named Haji Qadir Khan, a reported associate of Sirajuddin Haqqani, in the nearby Thal Adda Masjid Bazaar area of Hangu district. The killing was widely viewed as retribution for the abduction and murder of two Qabul-Miamai Khel tribesmen last year; one of those abducted was the son of Malek Karim Khan.

In retaliation for the killing of Haji Qadir Khan, as many as 1,200 heavily armed militants launched a predawn assault against Almar village, targeting the home of Sayed Sattar, and the Malik Shadam Khan village, where Malek Karim Khan and his fighters were holed up with small arms, rocket-propelled grenades, and heavy artillery. Three local tribesmen and a woman were killed in the initial clashes, including a local tribal elder named Gulbuddin who was trying to negotiate a ceasefire between the two sides. The fighting also injured dozens of villagers, among them women and children, The News reports.

According to local press, Pakistani military gunships "dispersed" the raiding Taliban militia, reportedly killing four, only minutes before they could have overrun the village where Karim Khan and his family were holed up. The Pakistani military intervention quelled the heaviest fighting, but Karim Khan and his followers remain encircled by hundreds of heavily armed Taliban fighters. Those participating in the siege with Hafiz Gul Bahadur's Taliban include Haqqani Network fighters; and unconfirmed reports indicate that the Haqqani shadow governor for Afghanistan's Paktika province, Mullah Sangeen Zadran, was leading a group of fighters against Mahmud Khan. Sangeen is wanted by the US for his links to al Qaeda and for terrorist attacks in Afghanistan.

One day after the fighting at Khan's village, Taliban fighters dumped the dead bodies of two slain tribesmen on a roadway in Mir Ali, on the outskirts of Shawa. The two men, identified as grandsons of Haji Shah Mahmud -- Malek Jehandad, son of Karim Khan, and Bashir Khan, son of Rasheed Khan -- were reportedly abducted earlier in the week. The Taliban's execution of Malek Jehandad and Bashir Khan will likely exacerbate the already volatile situation.

On Sunday, Taliban fighters loyal to Hafiz Gul Bahadur gave an ultimatum to Haji Shah Mahmud and his family: leave North Waziristan in 20 days or face death. Shortly before the April 18 clash, Hafiz Gul Bahadur issued a pamphlet, titled "Masool-o-Khuddamul Mujahideen North Waziristan," which ordered "those hailing from South [Waziristan] should respect their own land and property," and vowed to punish those who attempted to break up the peace agreement between Bahadur's Taliban militia and the Pakistani military. The statement from Bahadur follows on the heels of a daring Taliban-led jail break from the Bannu Central Jail in which hundreds of dangerous criminals and Taliban fighters were freed. Officials estimate that 150 of the nearly 400 inmates who escaped are now holed up in Mir Ali, North Waziristan.

Haji Shah Mahmud remained defiant, declaring that he and his family would stay and fight in their villages, and vowed to "defend their people at all costs."


* Alternately spelled Qabakhel, Kabul Khel, Kabul Meomi Khel, Kabulkhel, and Kabul Miamai Khel.



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READER COMMENTS: "Taliban, Haqqani factions attack tribal rivals in North Waziristan; 10 dead"

Posted by Paul D at April 23, 2012 3:24 PM ET:

As Pakistan army openly support Taliban fighters loyal to Hafiz Gul Bahadur we should support the other side.

Posted by blert at April 23, 2012 5:53 PM ET:

The Pakistani Army does not have a history of firing on the Haqqani Network -- just a history of saying that they've attacked it.

There are more than a few accounts in the South Asian press that tell of Pakistani gunships firing on anti-Taliban Pashtun tribes in the FATA.

( Federally Abandoned Tribal Anarchy )

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As for 'heavy fighting'...

How, in the modern era, with all of the automatic weapons to hand, can these shootists cause so FEW casualties after a full day of 'intense' fighting?

It's puzzling.

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The point of Haqqani debouchement, if observed, is a 'tell' for future reference. Indeed, the entire affair ought to be studied from on high. It's extremely relevant WRT future opfor tactics.

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Without a siege train, how in the world does the Haqqani faction figure to overwhelm a mountain bulwark? It would seem that even mere heavy machine guns would be daunting.

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Can America field Spectre type ( AC130 ) pylon-turning drones?

It would seem that we're going to have to deploy such 'over-run-stoppers' ( like Spooky in Nam ) to buttress the Afghan National Army and Militia after the ISAF downsizes this season.

The pylon-turn attack would seem robotically ideal. The light infantry nature of the opfor would only require slowed down/ intermittent mini-guns.

Perhaps a micro-gun based upon the 5.56mm round would be the best match. Instead of beating the zone to death -- a light dusting of anti-personnel 5.56mm would deter or break up Haqqani attacks.

( Pylon turning drones are actually hard for ground soldiers to target -- even as they, themselves, become tightly targeted. A drone that snipes from above would be very un-nerving. By not wasting ammo, it could stay lethal and persistent. )

Posted by jos at April 23, 2012 7:03 PM ET:

Couls you add a map showing these places in the future?

Posted by mike merlo at April 23, 2012 11:47 PM ET:

re: jos

http://www.khyber.org/images/maps/waziristan.gif

http://www.khyber.org/publications/041-045/waziristanmap.gif

http://www.khyber.org/images/maps/triballocations.jpg

Posted by Hamad at April 24, 2012 7:45 AM ET:

Why not America support Malik Karim Khan ?

Why not US attacks upon the taliban, when they were identified and reamin there for a full day bomboring the innocent villagers.

Pakistan Army helicopter shelling only killed 4 person, lol. And I am sure they will be villagers or pedestrian passing nearby.

Posted by Villiger at April 24, 2012 10:18 AM ET:

Blert:

FATA.

( Federally Abandoned Tribal Anarchy ).

LOL. And Paqistan has had 65 years to get it under control!? When they can't manage what they've got, incl Baluchistan how on earth could they manage (Indian) Kashmir?
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Hamad, i agree with your sentiments.

Posted by Charles at April 24, 2012 4:21 PM ET:

Agree with Hamad.

Given that Malik Karim Khan is now under a death sentence, he might be interested in spotting for US drones some very large concentrations of Haq/Talib/AQ fighters.

Its puzzling that --given reported concentrations of Haq/Talib/AQ fighters -- the drones weren't there before.

Posted by Paul D at April 24, 2012 6:25 PM ET:

Att Obama

Pak Army support all our enemies in Afghanistan.