Landi Kotal (Pakistan), June 30 : Lashkar-e-Islam chief Mangal Bagh who is spearheading the militancy campaign against the Pakistan government in tribal areas, had before-hand information about yesterday's combing operation launched by Pakistan's paramilitary forces, and had escaped to the remote Tirah Valley much in advance along with his fellow militants.
During the operation, security forces destroyed several hideouts and an FM radio station in the Bara tehsil of the Khyber tribal region, reported the Dawn.
However, there are indications that the militants had moved out of the area before the offensive was launched, it added.
Paramilitary forces are reported to have destroyed four hideouts of Lashkar-i-Islam and Ansarul Islam on Sunday without encountering any resistance. Flags of Lashkar-i-Islam were seen flying above houses and school buildings in Bara, and local people were quoted as saying that the operation was "just an eyewash and Mangal Bagh was being supported by the district administration".
According to them, Mangal Bagh had used radio broadcasts to order his supporters not to attack security forces or hinder their movement. "He asked his supporters to let them (troops) go wherever they wanted," an unidentified man said.
Khan Mohammad, who was guarding one of the destroyed Lashkar-i-Islam's centre in Bara, said: "The Amir knew about the operation and had asked his supporters to move out of the area and take shelter in the Tirah Valley before it started. People will do as they are told and that is why there is no resistance."
Prime Minister's Adviser on Interior Rahman Malik, who attended briefings on the law and order situation at the Governor's House and the Frontier Corps headquarters at the Bala Hisar Fort, claimed that several torture cells had been found in Bara.
Lashkar sources in Bara claimed that most of their activists were engaged in fighting the Ansar group in Tirah valley. The week-long fighting has so far claimed the lives of 40 people from both sides. Mangal Bagh continued his propaganda broadcasts from the Tirah Valley, telling his supporters not to put up any resistance to the security forces and urged them to remain calm.
He said, "the Army operation will not help the government achieve its objectives" or stop him from purging the Bara of "all anti-social elements and providing justice to the poor".