DERA ISMAIL KHAN - Militant group Islamic State has threatened to target Shias living in certain northern areas of Pakistan. Hundreds of pamphlets containing threats have allegedly been distributed by IS in the Kurram Agency, threatening attacks in specific tribal areas, reported Voice of America (VOA) on Thursday.

"We have achieved our goals in Afghanistan and are now ready to confront Shia renouncers in Pakistani's tribal areas," the IS pamphlet in Pashto said.

Although distributed in Sunni majority areas too, the pamphlet threatens to target Shias in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), as well as in Dera Ismail Khan and Hangu cities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The areas mentioned in the pamphlet are home to a considerable Shia population.

VOA could not independently confirm the authenticity of the pamphlet.

A local government official acknowledged, on the condition of anonymity, that pamphlets were distributed, but said the government is investigating whether these came from IS or others. He said the areas mentioned in the pamphlets are under government control.

"We are on the front line of the war against militancy and, therefore, our security is tight," the official added.

The military has been carrying out an operation to clear out militants in the region since 2014. The government is demanding local tribes in the region surrender their weapons to decrease militancy. The weapons surrender is part of Operation Zarb-e-Azb.

Faqir Hussain, an elder of a Shia tribe called Tori, expressed concern that the government is demanding Shias in the region surrender their weapons while facing such threats. "We would not have bought these weapons if we had no threat," Hussain told VOA. "I have told my tribe living on the border that they have to defend themselves."

The Tori tribe recently faced a suicide attack claimed by a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban, which reportedly is supporting IS. Islamic State reportedly is attempting to establish a footprint in the Kurram Agency and has been recruiting local men into its ranks.

The Pakistani government says it will take action against those involved in distributing the pamphlets. "The government is going to take strict measures if IS has distributed pamphlets in Kurram Agency and other parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa," lawmaker Tahir Iqbal, who is a member of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, told VOA. "The government will not spare anyone involved in printing or spreading hate material or pamphlets."

The terror group has also been active in parts of neighbouring Afghanistan for the past two years. Kabul has said many of the IS fighters in Afghanistan belong to the Orakzai tribe in Pakistan.

Analysts say the military operation in the tribal areas of Pakistan has cleared out the top layer of militancy, but the sleeper cells and sympathisers still exist and have the capacity to plan and attack. "It is almost impossible to fully prevent the spread of the group in the current circumstances," security analyst Said Nazir Mohmand, who is associated with the Islamabad-based Institute of Policy Studies, told VOA. "Such groups can easily be eliminated if there is peace in Afghanistan."

Top foreign ministry officials from Russia, China and Pakistan met in Moscow in December to discuss what they said was a "gradually growing" threat to their frontiers posed by Islamic State extremists in Afghanistan.