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Khattak Looks At Marginalized Militant Group Lashkar-i-Islam (LI) In Khyber Agency

Daud Khattak, Senior Editor with RFE/RL's Pakistani Service, Radio Mashaal, looks at the situation in Khyber Agency as an example of how quickly militant groups operating in Pakistan's tribal areas can fall out of favor in an article for the "Combating Terrorism Center," an academic institution at the U.S. Military Academy.

Read a segment of the article below or the original on the "Combating Terrorism Center" website.

Mangal Bagh and LI Marginalized in Khyber Agency

Daud Khattak | Combating Terrorism Center

April 23, 2012

Pakistan’s Khyber Agency has long been a stronghold for the militant group Lashkar-i-Islam (LI) and its leader, Mangal Bagh. Multiple operations launched by Pakistan’s military in Khyber failed to dislodge LI from its safe haven in the Bara area, which is located just 12 miles from Pakistan’s northern city of Peshawar.[1] Although Mangal Bagh and LI had to contend with a number of competing militia groups in Khyber, by 2007 his group had emerged as the most powerful in the agency, recruiting young men into its ranks, forcing civilians to grow their beards, barring women from markets, banning music and imposing taxes on wealthy locals and minorities.[2] LI’s consolidation of power came after a rival militia, Qazi Mahboob’s Ansar-ul-Islam (AI),[3] fled into the remote Tirah Valley after months of clashes with LI,[4] and after another rival leader, Haji Namdar Khan of the Taliban-style Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (AMNAM) group,[5] was reportedly assassinated by militants from Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Yet in April 2011, a group of locals from the Zakhakhel sub-tribe[6] in the Tirah Valley formed a militia and demanded that LI leave the area. Shortly after the demand, armed clashes occurred between Zakhakhel tribesmen and LI members, with both sides suffering casualties. The Zakhakhel tribesmen eventually named their militia Tawheedul Islam (TI), and they continued to attack LI throughout 2011. By November 2011, the Zakhakhel succeeded in pushing LI out of the Bara area of Khyber.

The situation in Khyber is a pertinent example of how quickly militant groups operating in the tribal areas can fall out of favor. This article discusses the emergence of TI and reviews how the group managed to defeat LI in Khyber Agency. It then assesses the current strength of LI in light of its recent losses.[READ MORE]