Daily Jang, update 10 Jan 2009
Fierce battles in Hangu leave 26 dead
By Abdul Sami Paracha
KOHAT, Jan 10: A fierce gunbattle between rival sects in Hangu continued on Saturday amid efforts to broker an early truce to stop bloodshed.
Official sources said that 26 people, including the deputy chairman of the local chapter of the Ahli Sunnat Wal Jamaat, Mufti Rustam, had been killed and several others injured in the two-day fighting. (They were part of the Taliban/Sipah-e-Sahaba gand which attackes the Shia mourners in the Ashura procession.)
Eyewitnesses said that dozens of houses had been damaged in the clashes that started on Friday night.
The most affected parts of the town were Pass Kalay, Ganjiano Kalay and Sangerh Mohallah.
Fighters on both sides have set up control rooms for monitoring and gathering reports from the battleground.
Sources said that both groups were using heavy weapons like mortars and anti-aircraft guns. Big lashkars were being raised to attack populated areas of rival sects.
Many of the fighters had reached the area from Orakzai and Kurram agencies to support their sects.
According to some reports, as soon as the fighters entered the city from Kohat side, they were attacked by the rival sect.
Troops then opened fire to stop them from entering the area under curfew.
The Taliban and their rivals allegedly surrounded dozens of people and killed them.
The bodies were still lying in different parts of the town as security forces and elders could not reach the spot.
It appeared that armed men had taken over Hangu as administrative machinery was seen nowhere.
There were reports that the two groups had been preparing for a fight for the past one month.
The people were so angry that the whole administration, including police and security forces, had taken shelter and were not coming out to talk to the people or even fire teargas shells.
Helicopter gunships and fighter planes kept hovering over the area, but they returned to Kohat base without firing at the warring factions.
Officials said most of the people had vacated Hangu town before the start of Muharram. Only male members of families had stayed back to guard their homes.
A huge quantity of arms was brought from Afghanistan and Orakzai Agency for the battle, sources alleged.
A grand jirga, convened by Kohat commissioner Umar Khan Afridi, was held on Saturday to iron out differences between the groups.
The jirga was attended by Kohat DIG Qudratullah Marwat, district nazim Khan Afzal, district Khateeb Allama Jawad Ahmed Jawadi, Shabbir Khan and Allama Hussain al Hussaini.
The jirga failed to achieve anything and the battle gained intensity with the passage of time.
Six bodies of mourners killed on Friday night were brought to Kohat on Saturday evening and buried in Ustarzai Town.
One of them could not be recognised as he was a non-local. The people buried him along with the other people. (Dawn)
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) — Seventeen people have been killed and 30 wounded in clashes between Sunni and Shia groups in villages in the Hangu District in northwest Pakistan, police said Saturday.
A meeting has been called to bring the two sides together with government officials to discuss a cease-fire, police said.
A curfew is still in place, and police said more bloodshed is likely if an agreement is not reached.
Nine killed in Pakistan sectarian violence: official
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) — At least nine people died and 17 were wounded in sectarian clashes in a remote town in northwest Pakistan, police said Saturday.
The violence broke out between rival Shiite and Sunni Muslim groups Friday and continued for a second day in the town of Hangu, local district official Mujibur Rehman told AFP.
Mountainous Hangu, near the Afghan border, has been a hotbed of sectarian violence that has claimed dozens of lives in the past two years.
Rehman said the authorities had beefed up security and were making efforts through a tribal peace committee to end the violence between the feuding parties.
In a separate attack suspected Sunni militants killed a Shiite scholar and his police guard Saturday in the country’s southwestern town of Sibbi, police said.
The victims were sitting on a shop when two men on a motorbike sprayed them with bullets, Sibi police officer Younis Bhagra said.
Shiites account for about 20 percent of Pakistan’s 160 million-strong, Sunni-majority population.
The groups usually coexist peacefully but outbreaks of sectarian violence have claimed more than 4,000 lives across Pakistan since the late 1980s.