Villagers battle Taliban in northwest Pakistan
Pakistani villagers seeking revenge for a deadly mosque bombing killed three more suspected Taliban insurgents on Monday in a third day of vigilante violence, police and officials said.world Updated: Jun 08, 2009 15:12 IST
Pakistani villagers seeking revenge for a deadly mosque bombing killed three more suspected Taliban insurgents on Monday in a third day of vigilante violence, police and officials said.
The spontaneous militia took up arms on Saturday and killed six suspected militants in Upper Dir district, a day after 38 people were killed in a suicide blast at a mosque in the district's village of Hayagai Sharqai.
The heavily armed tribal militia -- known as a lashkar -- stormed three villages and torched up to 20 houses in an area near northwestern Swat valley where the military is locked in a six-week anti-Taliban offensive.
"Firing between the lashkar and militants is continuing at several places," district police chief Mohammad Ejaz Khan told AFP on Monday.
"There are more than 200 Taliban taking part in fighting, and three more Taliban were killed on Monday, so the total toll is nine."
Local officials said that up to 1,200 villagers carrying small arms and kalashnikovs have taken up positions at Shatkas and Ghazigi hamlets, some 20 kilometres (12 miles) east of Upper Dir's main town.
"Taliban have lost the local support in the area and are now only firing back to move away," a local security official told AFP.
"Taliban are surrounded from both eastern and western sides and are now fleeing the area after leaving their weapons and disguising themselves."
Friday's mosque bombing was the latest in a series of attacks on civilian and security targets -- attacks widely seen as retribution by Islamist extremists for Pakistan's blistering air and ground offensive in three districts.
The northwest offensive has broad public support, and the vigilante attacks in Upper Dir signalled rising tensions between locals and the extremists bent on imposing a harsh brand of Islamic law.
Pakistan launched its northwest push after the Taliban advanced to within 100 kilometres (60 miles) of Islamabad in early April, violating a deal to put the region's three million people under sharia law in exchange for peace.
Pakistan's government has in the past encouraged the formation of lashkar militias to boost the official armed forces in their fight against militants.