October 3, 2017 / 12:42 PM / 16 days ago

Pakistani activist targeted by blast vows to maintain effort to rein in Taliban

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan (Reuters) - A Pakistani activist hunted by the Taliban vowed on Tuesday to keep up his struggle against militancy in the northern Swat Valley, just a day after he narrowly escaped a car blast that killed his father and a passenger.

Pakistani Taliban insurgents took partial control of the valley in 2007, before being ousted two years later in a major military operation hailed as a telling blow against Islamist violence.

The group has since carried out revenge attacks against anti-Taliban activists and attempted to extort money from businessmen in a region where Pakistan has stationed more than 4,000 soldiers.

“I lost my father, and my uncle and cousin are critically wounded, but we will fight until we have rid the area of militants,” Ahmed Zeb, a member of a peace panel in the region, told Reuters.

Police officials say a remote-controlled roadside blast that targeted Zeb’s vehicle killed two people and injured two, although he escaped, as he was not in the vehicle at the time.

The attack was claimed by a spokesman for the Tehreek-e-Taliban, also known as the Pakistani Taliban, citing the peace committee’s support for the “disbelievers”.

The term refers to Pakistan’s security forces who have been fighting Taliban militants since 2001.

“I believe the militants who escaped from here after the military operation are behind these attacks,” Zeb said. “It’s possible they have informants in the region who help them identify targets.”Zeb’s peace panel groups councils headed by regional leaders, working with security officials to identify militants operating in the area and provide assistance during search operations.

“We will continue our work for peace and law and order in the area,” Zeb said, adding that the government needed to take seriously the threat of more attacks on other peace panel members and their families.

A spokesman for the country’s interior ministry made no immediate comment on Zeb’s remarks.

More than 50 peace panel volunteers have been killed since 2009, with the last attack in May 2016, Zeb added.

Swat was the first sizeable region outside Pakistan’s lawless tribal regions bordering Afghanistan to fall to the militants. More than 2,000 Taliban fighters have been driven out of the region, government officials say.

Since 2010, attacks have been a part of life there, such as an attempt in 2012 to assassinate Nobel peace laureate Malala Yousafzai, although murders have stopped in the past year, following a series of arrests by police.

Writing by Saad Sayeed; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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