PAKISTANI paramilitary forces destroyed a handful of militant centres and uncovered alleged torture cells as they pressed ahead yesterday with an offensive against extremists near the Afghan border, officials said.
A spokesman for Pakistan’s top Taliban commander promised yesterday that militants would retaliate against the government, and were suspending efforts to reach and implement peace deals.
The operation in the Khyber tribal area is a shift for Pakistan’s new government, which has sought to reduce violence through the peace deals. But with extremists increasingly threatening Peshawar, a major north-western city, and ambushing supply convoys bound for US-led coalition troops in Afghanistan, the government turned to its troops.
The paramilitary Frontier Corps killed one attacker but encountered relatively little resistance since launching the operation on Saturday, officials said.
Troops, backed by tanks and armoured personnel carriers, quickly cleared militants out of Khyber’s Bara region, said Muhammad Siddiq Khan, a local official. They then moved into areas outside Bara.
The troops destroyed at least four militant centres and uncovered a privately run jail, said Habibullah Khan, additional chief secretary for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
“The criminals were running a parallel administration in the area,” Khan said. “They were kidnapping the people, trying them and punishing them and the government is fully determined not to allow anyone to run a parallel administration.”
Khan said the jail contained what he called “torture cells” with special equipment, but offered no details.
Rehman Malik, head of the Interior Ministry, said forces destroyed a radio station used by the militants to broadcast propaganda.
Khan said the operation would continue for several more days and insisted it was not aimed at any particular militant group.
The semi-autonomous tribal areas, where the federal government has long had limited authority, are home to many militant groups, some of whom are engaged in feuds.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved