( post dated 7-4-2009) from www.khyber.org )
BUNER: Three police officials, two Lashkar (militia) men and sixteen militants were killed in overnight clash between Taliban and Qaumi Lashkar in Buner district, police and residents said on Tuesday.The fierce fighting erupted on Monday night when the Qaumi Lashkar and local police force made efforts to enter the Gokand valley via Rajagaly Kandow from Pir Baba side to flush out Taliban militants who had sneaked in to the district on Saturday from neighbouring Swat. The militants had earlier been asked to leave but had refused and took positions in the Gokand valley. The local jirga elders and district administration officials held several rounds of talks with the Taliban through a reconciliatory committee which included leaders of Tehrik Nefaz-i-Shariat Muhammadi (TNSM) in a bid to convince them to leave the area with an offer of safe passage. But the militant commander was of the view that Tehrik Taliban high command had ordered their Tashkeel (stay) in the area and they would leave after holding a peace march and visiting the families of six killed Taliban in Shalbandi.Sources told Dawn that Taliban militants had dispatched sixteen bodies and shifted thirteen wounded colleagues to Swat via Kalil Kandow early on Tuesday morning after the shootout. However, militants and their local supporters were tightlipped about the casualties on their side. Following the battle, the Taliban took possession of the bodies of two Lashkar men and three police constables and even opened fire on Lashkar men when they tried to rescue the bodies early on Tuesday morning. Malakand commissioner Mohammad Javed Khan, Taliban commander Mehmood Khan, TNSM vice chief Maulana Mohammad Alam, district chief Maulana Salar and others visited Dara Gokand on Tuesday. They held several rounds of talks with the Taliban commander Rizwan Bacha of Puechar Swat. The dialogue continued till Tuesday evening and the Taliban commander allowed the handover of the bodies of the Qaumi Lashkar men and police personnel to a third party. The bodies of the police personnel were dispatched to their hometowns after funeral prayers at Police Line Buner. Sources said the Taliban set on fire seven houses of an influential member of the Qaumi Lashkar in Barwazee area and a petrol pump in Barikot, Swat district, on Tuesday. Tense calm prevailed in Gokand valley and rest of the district as influential people who have affiliation with Qaumi Lashkar have shifted their families from Sultanwas village to safer places in fear of Taliban reprisal.Sources close to the Taliban said the militants were in no mood to leave the area. They have reportedly established their headquarters in Buner district and were bent on holding peace march in the district and to monitor the affairs in accordance with the Nizam-i –Adl Regulation. The reconciliatory committee has succeeded in cooling down the situation but both sides have taken positions and final showdown is expected any time as reinforcement and heavy weaponry have been shifted to Taliban from Swat on Monday night. The Taliban have claimed consolidated their position in whole of Dara Gokand, advanced to Kalabat in Batai Dara and near occupying Bagra post, a few kilometers from Pir Baba Bazaar. Sources said Taliban have now kept their eyes on the Sultanwas area and it would be next target of militants if it consolidated its position in the area.