Mangal Bagh killed in blast, carried $3m bounty

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KABUL [Afghanistan]: Pakistan’s Lashkar-e-Islam terrorist group head Mangal Bagh was killed in a bomb blast in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province on Thursday.

Bagh was killed in blast in the Bandari locality of Achin district, Pajhwok Afghan News reported.

“Mangal Bagh, the leader of Lashkar-e-Islam terrorist group, was killed along with two of his comrades in a roadside bomb blast in the Bandar Dara area of Achin district of Nangarhar this morning,” provincial governor Ziaulhaq Amarkhil tweeted.

Bagh was reported dead several times, however, he continued to reappear, The Express Tribune reported. According to US State Department, Mangal Bagh carried up to USD 3 million of bounty on his head.

“Mangal Bagh is the leader of Lashkar-e-Islam, a militant faction affiliated with Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). His group earns revenue from drug trafficking, smuggling, kidnapping, raids on NATO convoys, and taxes on transit trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan,” State Department’s Reward for Peace data said.

File picture of Mangal Bagh, the leader of militant outfit Lashkar-e-Islm (LI) based in Khyber tribal agency’s Bara region.

According to the State Department, Bagh has led Lashkar-e-Islam since 2006 and has routinely shifted alliances to protect illicit revenue streams while enforcing an extreme version of Deobandi Islam in the areas of eastern Afghanistan and western Pakistan that he controls, particularly Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan.

Born in Khyber Agency, Pakistan, he is believed to be in his mid-forties. Bagh is a member of the Afridi tribe. He studied at a madrasa for several years and later fought alongside militant groups in Afghanistan.

Confirming the news of the militant leader’s death, Nangarhar’s Governor Zia-ul-Haq Amarkhel wrote on his Twitter account: “Mangal Bagh, also known as Mangal Bagh Afridi, the leader of Lashkar-i-Islam, a militant organisation operating in (erstwhile) Khyber Agency, has been killed in a roadside explosion in Achin district along with three others.”

Earlier, some Afghan media organisations ran ‘breaking news’ about Bagh’s death, saying that some unidentified persons planted landmines at the doorstep of his house and he was instantly killed when he stepped on them, along with some of his family members. The names of the other slain persons could not be immediately ascertained.

News reports of his killing in drone attacks or clashes with rival groups spread in the past as well, but he himself used to deny them through statements aired by his illegal FM radio station that he operated wherever he travelled.

There was no immediate comment from official circles in Khyber, both administrative and security ones, as they too were awaiting ‘confirmed reports’ from across the border from authentic sources.

In his mid-50s now, Mangal Bagh shot to prominence after he was elevated to the top position of LI when the-then political administration orchestrated the unceremonious ouster of Mufti Munir Shakir through a jirga verdict. Mufti Shakir was a controversial cleric and mentor of Bagh.

The militant group was formed by Mufti Shakir in the middle of 2004 after he took allegiance from his armed supporters that they would help him in forcibly expelling Pir Saifur Rehman from Bara.

Sources in Bara said that Bagh used to wash cars at a taxi stand in Peshawar’s Cantonment area during his youth when he was ideologically affiliated with the Awami National Party.

He then became a conductor of a bus operating between Bara and Peshawar and later became its driver, sources said and added that he was not very educated as he attended only primary school in his native Sipah area of Bara.

His elevation to the top position of LI in late 2004 took many by surprise, even within the group’s ranks as he was not only junior to many of the organisation’s diehard activists but temperamentally too he was not considered fit for the ‘top job’.

He was extremely ruthless towards his opponents and adopted extremely cruel methods for their public execution in Bara, Bazaar Zakhakhel and Tirah valley.

He would make the local residents look straight at the victims and not turn their faces away during public executions at the Spin Qabar chowk of Sipah, a local resident told Dawn while requesting anonymity.

Sources in Bara said that his funeral was offered in Achin, with only a few of his close associates in attendance.