Militants launch cross-border attack into Pakistan

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 16, 2011 6:04 AM
Militants launch cross-border attack into Pakistan

By Sahibzada Bahauddin

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - About 250 militants staged a cross-border raid from Afghanistan into a pro-government Pakistani village on Thursday, security officials and residents said, apparently part of a new Pakistani Taliban campaign of large-scale attacks.

An intelligence official said six civilians were killed after militants opened fire with AK-47 assault rifles. Two women were wounded, said government official Shah Naseem.

"They came from mountains where we don't have any security post," said another government official, Faramoosh Khan. "Villagers told us that militants also used rocket-propelled grenades to target houses."

A spokesman for Pakistani paramilitary forces confirmed the attack but did not provide details.

The Pakistani Taliban have been stepping up attacks against the state after warning they would avenge the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. special forces on May 2.

Pakistani Taliban fighters who fled to Afghanistan in the face of army offensives have joined allies in Afghanistan to regroup and threaten Pakistan's border regions again, analysts say.

Thursday's attack was in the Bajaur region, opposite the Afghan province of Kunar.

Militants and villagers engaged in a firefight that lasted several hours, security officials and villagers said.

"We asked people to come out of their homes with their weapons and then we also starting firing on them," resident Ghulam Mohammad told Reuters.

Villager Khan Zaman said: "They crossed their checkposts and then came to our side of the border and attacked."

The attack may have been prompted by the formation of an anti-Taliban militia raised by the village of Mamoun.

Pakistani authorities have been encouraging ethnic Pashtun tribesmen on the Afghan border to revive traditional militias -- known as lashkars -- to counter the threat from militants.

The Taliban have retaliated by assassinating tribal elders and militiamen.

In May, Maulvi Faqir Mohammad, the top Pakistani Taliban commander in Bajaur, warned Mamoun's villagers about the expulsion of his fighters by a lashkar.

Analysts say Taliban militant commanders like Mohammad are hitting back after lying low in Afghanistan.

On June 2, up to 400 militants crossed from Afghanistan and attacked a security checkpost in the Dir region in northwest Pakistan, killing 27 members of the security forces, officials said.

After that attack, a Pakistani Taliban commander said they had adopted a new strategy of deploying large numbers of fighters to hit government and military targets to demoralize the military.

Spokesmen for the Pakistani Taliban were not immediately available for comment on Thursday's attack.

Pakistanis have grown increasingly frustrated by the government's failure to end militant violence.

Since bin Laden's death, the Pakistani Taliban have attacked paramilitary forces and a U.S. consulate convoy and assaulted a naval base, holding out against navy commandos and rangers for several hours.

A suicide bomber attacked a bank in Islamabad this week and killed a security guard in what some analysts said could be a sign that the militants plan to bring their fight back to the capital.

(Additional reporting by Kamran Haider; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Chris Allbritton)