Sunday, June 7, 2009

Villagers besiege 200 Taliban in Dir

ISLAMABAD: Hundreds of tribesmen furious over a deadly suicide bombing at a mosque have laid siege to around 200 Taliban in Upper Dir, killing 13 in total – nine of them on Sunday, according to officials and a private TV channel.

The weekend clashes appeared to be the latest evidence of growing anti-Taliban sentiment in Pakistan – a shift that comes as suicide attacks have surged and the military wages an offensive in the nearby Swat valley.

The attack on the mosque killed 33 worshippers during Friday prayers, angering residents of the Haya Gai area of Upper Dir.

Some 400 villagers banded together to attack five villages in the nearby Dhok Darra area that were known Taliban strongholds, said DCO Atifur Rehman.

He said the citizens’ lashkar has occupied three of the villages since Saturday, and was trying to push the Taliban out of the other two on Sunday. Some 20 houses of villagers suspected of harbouring Taliban were destroyed, he added.

“They are standing up against the militants themselves as they consider them troublemakers,” Atif told Reuters over the telephone.

District police Chief Ejaz Ahmad said around 200 Taliban were putting up a tough fight, but were surrounded by the villagers.

One resident of Upper Dir said, “We are Muslims … we don’t want them, they have to go. Attacking a mosque is not Islam. They’re not Muslim.”

Tribal elder Mohtabar Khan said letting the Taliban stay was asking for trouble. “It means inviting a military offensive which we don’t want.”

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