Pakistan’s military dispatched helicopter gunships to the volatile northwest in support of thousands of angry tribesmen who have laid siege to a group of Taliban fighters, police said Tuesday.
In another part of the northwest, the army began shelling Taliban hide-outs being protected by another group of tribesmen.
The two battles — one by citizens fighting the Taliban, the other involving villagers sheltering the militants — underscore the volatile nature of alliances and rivalries in the Afghan border region where Al Qaeda and the Taliban have been able to entrench themselves.
The fighting in Upper Dir and Bannu districts came even as troops continued a separate major military offensive to expel the Taliban in the Swat Valley region, also in the northwest.
In the Upper Dir district, a citizens’ militia that sprang up over the weekend to avenge a deadly suicide bombing at a mosque grew to more than 2,000 members, area police official Atlas Khan said.
Some of the Taliban were blocked on Tuesday when they tried to get away to nearby Malik Bai village, which the tribesmen also encircled, police said.
In the Bannu district, about 220 kilometres south of Dir, the military started shelling in the tribal-controlled area of Jani Khel after tribesmen refused to hand over Taliban militants taking refuge there, senior local government official Kamran Zeb Khan said.