Fears that Peshawar may slip into militant hands .

Fears that Peshawar may slip into militant hands.
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP) capital Peshawar could slip into the hands of militants within a few months if the government does not take adequate measures to arrest the growing trend of militancy, a media report said on Wednesday.

Militant groups have been gaining strength for the past several months in a number of towns and villages around Peshawar, The News said.

Two groups, led respectively by Mangal Bagh and Haji Namdar, have established their ascendancy in the tribal Khyber Agency and a similar number hold sway in the Mohmand Agency.

"The Mangal Bagh-led Lashkar-e-Islam (LI) has never attacked security forces but clashed with rival groups on three different occasions in the past that left several people dead," The News said.

The LI has also threatened action against all those running brothels, selling liquor and heroin, kidnapping for ransom and other crimes.

"Many living in the areas close to the LI stronghold have abandoned their trades to save their skin," the newspaper said.

Threats were also issued on a number of occasions to the owners of CD and video shops, Internet cafes and snooker clubs in a number of towns and villages to the north of Peshawar.

A large number of such shops were bombed when the owners ignored the warnings.

"The law-enforcing agencies were also attacked on a number of occasions. The situation reached such a level that one of the capital's police officers had to request the government to deploy the Frontier Corps (meant for guarding the border) to assist the police in combating militants," The News said.

As far as attacks on the security forces are concerned, the record of Matani town is the worst, with at least 18 personnel having been killed in ambushes and attacks on security posts in the town in the last two years.

Among those killed were a deputy inspector general of police, an inspector and a sub-inspector.

"A number of criminals had also taken advantage of the situation. A number of gangs, posing as militants, were busy kidnapping people for ransom. Several rivals have also exploited the situation to take revenge against their enemies by attacking their properties with bombs," the newspaper said.

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