20 killed in clash between Lashkar-e-Islam factions
Mangal Bagh. Click to view images of the senior leaders of the extremist groups operating in the Khyber agency.
Pajhwok Afghan News provides some additional details on the ambush that targeted Lashkar-e-Islam leader Mangal Bagh. According to Pajhwok, the Lashkar-e-Islam kidnapped and executed a religious leader of the Zakhakhel tribe in the Tirah Valley. Bagh was ambushed by members of his own force last night, and today, a major clash between the Zakhakhel and the Lashkar-e-Islam resulted in the deaths of 20 Pakistanis.
A clash between tribesmen and a militant group left at least 20 people dead and more than 50 others wounded in Pakistan's lawless tribal region of Khyber near the border with Afghanistan, an official and residents said on Saturday.
The clash erupted in Tirah valley of Bara sub-district, the agency's headquarters, on Friday evening following the murder of a religious scholar of Zakhakhel tribe, Maulana Hasan.
Fighters loyal to a notorious militant leader, Mangal Bagh, abducted Hasan two days ago and his dead body was found on Friday in the area, a resident, Stori Gul, said.
In retaliation, Zakhakhel tribesmen attacked Lashkar-i-Islam activists on Friday evening in Tirah, Mohammad Rafiq, an official, told Pajhwok Afghan News.
Although Pajhwok doesn't state it, the fighting in the Tirah Valley is most likely between the Lashkar-e-Islam and the Ansar-ul-Islam, a rival radical Deobandi group based in the area that is supposedly banned by the Pakistani government. The two groups have fought each other for control over the Tirah Valley, and have even attacked each other using suicide bombers. Hundreds have been killed in the fighting over the past several years. The Lashkar-e-Islam has had the upper hand over Ansar-ul-Islam.
For more information on Bagh and the Lashkar-e-Islam, see LWJ report, A profile of Mangal Bagh and Threat Matrix report, Lashkar-e-Islam chief targeted for assassination in Khyber.
My point about the Ansar-ul-Islam is partially incorrect; this largely is infighting within the Lashkar-e-Islam. Also, the Pakistani military is taking sides with Bagh's enemies and has launched strikes against his forces. From Dawn:
The fighting started after the Zakhakhel tribe raised a Lashkar of at least 1,000 volunteers against Mangal Bagh.
It was also learnt that most of Mangal Bagh's volunteers in Bazaar-Zakhkhel have already deserted him.
The sources said the Zakhakhel tribe rose in revolt against Mangal Bagh after LI activists allegedly kidnapped a cleric, Maulana Mohammad Hashim, from the Bazaar-Zakhakhel on March 21 and executed him a day later.
The Zakhakhel tribesmen were also enraged over the kidnapping of another rebel LI commander Ghuncha Gul, who had gone missing a month-and-a-half ago after he, along with commander Wahid, Tayyed, Haji Zar Khan and Misri Gul parted ways with Mangal Bagh.
The sources said the loss of Bazaar-Zakhakhel was a big setback to the Mangal Bagh-led LI because it was considered as one of its strongholds after having been ousted from Bara by security forces.
The sources anticipated an alliance of seven Afridi tribes of Bara against Mangal Bagh after the Zakhakhel rebellion against him.
But Dawn does note that the Ansar-ul-Islam is getting into the mix:
Meanwhile, it has been learnt that Ansaar ul Islam, an old rival of LI in Tirah, was also flexing its muscles against Mangal Bagh.