Buner falls into the hands of Swat Taliban

Posted in Terrorism , Pakistan | 22-Apr-09 | Source: dawn.com (Pakistan)

Taliban are seen at an entrance of the shrine of the Pir Baba adjacent to a mosque, which was closed by Taliban after taking it over in Buner.

BUNER: Taliban militants from Swat took control of Buner on Tuesday and started patrolling bazaars, villages and towns in the district.

The militants, who had sneaked into Gokand valley of Buner on April 4, were reported to have been on a looting spree for the past five days.

They have robbed government and NGO offices of vehicles, computers, printers, generators, edible oil containers, and food and nutrition packets.

Sources said that leading political figures, businessmen, NGO officials and Khawaneen, who had played a role in setting up a Lashkar to stop the Taliban from entering Buner, had been forced to move to other areas.

The Taliban have extended their control to almost all tehsils of the district and law-enforcement personnel remained confined to police stations and camps.

The Taliban, equipped with advanced weapons, were reported to be advancing towards border areas of Swabi,
Malakand and Mardan, the hometown of NWFP Chief Minister Amir Haider Khan Hoti.

According to reports reaching here, the militants have set up checkposts and camp bases in Kangar Gali village, along the Malakand border; Naway Dhand village, along the Mardan border; and Tootalai village, along the Swabi border.

The sources said officials of the FC camp in Jorh had asked people to vacate their homes in view of threats of an attack.

The militants have started digging trenches and setting up bunkers on heights in strategic towns of Gadezi, Salarzai, Osherai and other tehsils.

After occupying the Buner district and setting up their headquarters in the bungalow of businessman Syed Ahmed Khan (alias Fateh Khan) in Sultanwas, the militants started patrolling the streets and roads with no signs of law-enforcement personnel.

Led by Fateh Mohammad, the militants were asking local people, particularly youngsters, to join them in their campaign to enforce Sharia.

They have established checkposts on roads and are searching all passing vehicles. They have virtually established their writ in Buner region, once a stronghold of the Awami National Party.

A Taliban commander said they would set up strict Islamic sharia courts in Buner as they have already done in Swat, but would not interfere with police work.
‘The Taliban who have arrived from Swat have increased patrolling, banned music in public transport and rampaged (through the) offices of NGOs and taken their vehicles,' local government official Rashid Khan said.

‘Taliban militants armed with rocket launchers were manning the checkpoints and operating from local mosques,' he said, adding that a report had been filed at the local police station against ‘unknown militants.'

‘We will soon establish our radio station. Our Qazis (Islamic judges) will also start holding courts in Buner soon,' Taliban commander Mohammad Khalil told AFP.
‘We will not interfere in the police work, they can continue their job,' he said, adding their purpose was to end a ‘sense of deprivation' and to provide speedy justice.

‘People in their dozens have come to invite us' to extend sharia.

Muslim Khan, a Taliban spokesman, told AFP from Swat that ‘the government writ is not being challenged in Buner and Taliban are not creating any hurdle in the administration's work.'

‘The Taliban will leave Buner after enforcement of Islamic justice system,' he said.

However, several residents said they felt ‘scared' and planned to leave the Buner area, fearing similar violence to that in Swat.

On Tuesday, armed groups entered the Rural Health Centre at Jure in Salarzai area and took away a Land-Cruiser being used by the Expanded Programme of Immunisation (EPI), Buner.

On April 17, they raided a basic health unit in tehsil Chamla and looted 480 cans of edible oil. They took away from the house of a lady health visitor a large number of food and nutrition packets supplied by USAID and sewing machines from an Action Aid-sponsored vocational centre in the Korea village of tehsil Chamla.

On April 18, they looted a huge quantity of medicine from a health facility at the Afghan refugee camp in Koga in the same tehsil and 640 cans of edible oil from a godown of the World Food Programme in Nawagai.

On April 19, armed men took away a Suzuki Potohar Jeep from a rural health centre in Nagrai. A group of 20 militants took away a Suzuki Ravi car and 400 cans of edible oil from a basic health unit in Garga.

Another armed group snatched an ambulance, a pick-up provided by Gavi for EPI cell, a Suzuki Ravi from a health centre in Swari.

They also broke into the offices of Paiman (Save the Children) EPI, Jica offices and took away several computers, printers, two generators, fax machines, UPS and other appliances.

The armed men stopped near Ambela a double-cabin vehicle of Paiman going to Buner from Peshawar and took it along with the driver to a nearby camp. Later, they released the driver and escaped with the vehicle.

They have also occupied the main office of Rahbar in Swari.