Fri, Mar 11, 2011 - Page 5 News List

Blast threatens battle against Taliban

AP, ISLAMABAD

The leader of a powerful anti-Taliban militia yesterday threatened to stop cooperating with authorities after a deadly suicide bombing on his men — a warning that highlights the risks Pakistan is taking by using private armies with questionable loyalties in its struggle against the insurgents.

Dilawar Khan and other militia leaders close to Peshawar have long demanded more money and weapons from authorities in northwest Pakistan, accusing the government of encouraging them to rise up against the Taliban, but not giving them the support needed to do so.

Authorities have been careful not to give them too much power.

Wednesday’s suicide bombing by the Taliban at a funeral attended by militiamen in which at least 36 people were killed has stoked anger and led to new threats by Khan, who is based in a fortress-like compound and claims to have hundreds of followers.

“We have fought against the Taliban, doing what should have been done by the government, but in return we did not even get security for a funeral,” Khan said as he attended the funeral of those killed in the bombing yesterday. “We have said that we will stop our support to the government against the Taliban in such a situation and I repeat today that we will do it.”

The wealthy landowner and militia leader has not carried out his earlier, similar threats, which were presumably made to pressure the government into giving him more resources, but they carry extra weight after what was the deadliest bombing in Pakistan this year, leaving the security forces in an increasingly difficult position.

“I hope Dilawar Khan will not take any such steps, because doing so would negate his whole struggle,” Peshawar police chief Liaqat Ali Khan said. “The government and the police are helping him with resources, but the police are also playing a role in the area. This is not something just for Dilawar Khan, it is a joint war.”

Wednesday’s attack took place in Matani, a hilly area on the outskirts of Peshawar where al-Qaeda and Taliban militants are at their strongest. Khan and two other local tribal leaders have raised anti-Taliban armies in the area.

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