Saturday, March 19, 2011

Eight killed as helicopters target militants in Kurram

Eight killed as helicopters target militants in Kurram

PESHAWAR, March 18: Gunship helicopters pounded suspected positions in central tehsil of Kurram Agency on Friday and killed at least eight alleged militants and wounded seven others, officials said.
Helicopters attacked militant hideouts in Chinarek area of central tehsil. Two hideouts were attacked which left eight militants dead and seven others injured. The official claim could not be verified from independent sources.
Meanwhile, unidentified persons kidnapped two drivers from Lower Kurram on Thursday. They were going back to Thall in Hangu district from Parachinar when armed men stopped their vehicle and took them to some unknown location.
In another incident, a tribesman was killed in a clash with militants in Upper Kurram on Friday.
The militants fired rockets on tribal people in Pewar area from the nearby mountains. One of the mortar shells fell on a house and as a result a tribesman, Nasrat Hussain Turi, was killed. The tribal people retaliated and the crossfire continued for some hours with intervals.
The local people expressed concern over the growing number of attacks and asked the government to take stern action against the militants.Separately, five militants were killed in an exchange of fire with the security forces in Matta tehsil of Swat valley on Friday.
Official sources said that on a tip-off the security forces cordoned off Baha area of Matta tehsil.
They spotted suspected militants entering to Swat via Dir.
The forces asked them to surrender but they opened fire. Five alleged militants identified as Imtiaz Ali, Fazal Hadi, Fazal Wahid, Akber Hussain, and Mohammad Rahim were killed in the ensuing encounter.
All the dead hailed from Charbagh tehsil and wanted to security forces in various case of violence.

Sectarian killings, media, and ethics

Op-Ed: Sectarian killings, media, and ethics

Parachinar - The Shia population of Kurram Agency is under attack of militants who target passenger vehicles traveling in and out of Kurram. Media sources however are hesitant in highlighting the sectarian nation of the problem.
Earlier this week, militants made yet another brutal attack on a passenger vehicle which was traveling between Kurram Agency and Kohat. At least 11 people were killed in the attack. In Pakistan's volatile environment, this figure may not sound very startling since dozens of people have died in a single suicide blast so frequently made over the past few years throughout the country. However, this particular incident, a repetition of identical attacks in the near past, has something that mainstream media is still reluctant to highlight: it was an attack on people of Shia sect and all casualties belonged to this sub-religion of Islam that is considered infidels by some fanatic Islamic groups.
Kurram Agency, with Parachinar as the main town, is a tribal area inhabited mainly by people of Shia (Jaffria) sect – one of the few places in Pakistan that are dominantly Shia in terms of their population. Due to its border with Afghanistan, Kurram has been through the threat of militants and insurgency of Talibanization. By 2007, Taliban had already infiltrated in a significant proportion to target Shia community because they wanted free passage between Afghanistan and Kurram. But the local Shia population won't let them use their land and thus started a series of armed clashes stretching over more 3 years. Finally, Taliban had to retreat, vindictive and determined to retaliate.
During the warring years, Shia people could not safely travel to and from Kurram Agency. The main road between Parachinar and Thall (Hangu) remained closed for over 3 years. Convoys that escorted passengers along the road were attacked by militants; Shia passengers were killed and non-Shia usually just looted while vehicles were set on fire after plundering. As the security situation got somewhat better, the Thall-Parachinar road was opened in February 2011. Since then more than one attack has targeted vehicles carrying Shia passengers to/out of Kurram along the road, resulting in civilian causalities and injuries.
Let's not talk of the security situation as it's common knowledge now how successful the security personnel have been in preventing militancy (not to discredit those few who lost their lives in the line of duty). The question to consider, and one not paid due attention heretofore, is whether our media should highlight the fact that passengers of Shia sect are being targeted en route. Two angles maybe are taken on this question. Media ethics and the public's right to know the truth.
From media's viewpoint, sectarian violence is a sensitive issue and headlines of attacks on a particular sect (which in Pakistan almost always happens to be Shias) can spark sectarian violence in other places in the county. Therefore, it is unethical to highlight sectarian attacks as such; instead the headlines in media tell that the attack killed this and this number of passengers. The policy of preventing sectarian violence sounds reasonable. However, the Shia population is certainly not satisfied. They feel neglected and under-represented in such a serious issue wherein they are the target of deadly militant attacks.
At some online newspapers where readers are allowed comments on posts, some readers have commented bitterly against the media's policy of veiling the truth by removing the word Shia and using the common "passengers", stripping the incidents of the sectarian element that is at the core of the issue. They believe that the world should know that they are being targeted, hoping that it would bring some serious attention to the problem and their lives in future would be more secure.
Personally, I have always found it more convincing to stop the aggressor rather than sheltering the target and I believe that calling a spade a spade has its force against evil and oppression. Media channels must highlight the fact that a particular sect is being targeted because word of mouth through phones is faster than news in communities and it gives a deep sense of betrayal and victimization when the truth you know from your trusted kin/friend is hidden in the news – putting media's neutrality to question.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of

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