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Mangal Bagh killed in encounter

25 July, 2016

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PESHAWAR: Mangal Bagh, fugitive chief of the outlawed Lashkar-e-Islam (LI), has been killed along with two close associates in a US drone strike in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province, intelligence and Taliban sources confirmed on Sunday.

An associate of Bagh has been wounded in the strike, according to a report. The LI however denies the reports about Bagh’s killing.

Pakistani security forces had been hunting for Bagh for the last several years for his involvement in a number of terror attacks. He carried Rs 20 million bounty on his head.

Sources said the LI chief was critically injured in the drone strike on a compound in Khudi Khola in the mountainous Bandar area of Nangarhar in the wee hours of Saturday. He was reportedly provided medical assistance in the Bandar area, but he succumbed to his injuries, the sources said.

In a related development, LI commanders have convened a Shura or council meeting to pick a new chief for the outlawed group. Bagh had fled to Afghanistan along with his close associates after the security forces launched operations in Khyber Agency.

The militants loyal to Bagh were operating from Nangarhar and carrying out attacks on the Pakistani security forces. Bagh was reported to have made an agreement with the so-called Islamic State group.

In his absence, several members of his group reportedly surrendered to the security forces in Khyber Agency. Many of the militants who surrendered were reportedly rehabilitated and later freed. It is believed that some members of the militant outfit were still living in parts of Khyber Agency.

Bagh belonged to the Sepah clan of the Afridi tribe and he was from the Bara Tehsil in Khyber Agency. He was said to be a driver before he founded the LI. He used to run an illegal FM radio in the Khyber tribal region like the one Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Mullah Fazlullah used to run from Swat when he was in control of the area. Bagh didn’t receive formal education except for spending a few years at a madrassa.

Locals said that Bagh used his FM radio even though he had gone into hiding in the southeastern Nazyan district of Nangarhar. He had named his channel as ‘Da Haq Awaz’ or the ‘Voice of the Right’.

Bagh used his illegal radio channel to propagate his ideology against the Pakistani security forces and hurl threats at tribal elders who pledged support to the security forces.

Two week ago, TTP commander Umar Mansoor alias Naray was killed in a drone attack on his hideout in the Bandar area in Nangarhar. Naray was the alleged mastermind of the attacks on the Army Public School in Peshawar and the Bacha Khan University in Charsadda. The Inter-Services Public Relations confirmed his killing two days after the attack.

On Saturday, the TTP Shura chose Mufti Muhammad Iqbal alias Mufti Ghufranullah as new regional head. He would lead TTP activities in Kohat, Peshawar, frontier region, Peshawar, Darra Adamkhel, Attock, Khyber, Orakzai and Kurram, the sources said.

About six months ago, Bagh’s deputy Zakir Kambarkhel was killed in a drone strike in the Nazyan District in Nangarhar along with 14 other militants.

After forming the LI, Bagh virtually controlled the Bara Tehsil in Khyber Agency until mid 2008. The security forces then flushed out him and his group of militants after successive and extensive operations.

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