ISLAMABAD Criminal gangs operating in several districts of NWFP adjoining Swat and Malakand region have resorted to kidnapping for ransom on such a scale that local people have come to believe that these criminals were supporting Taliban remnants. Mysterious increase in incidents of kidnapping for ransom especially in Mardan, Charsadda, Peshawar, Nowshera, Swabi, Chitral and Haripur districts on varying scales suggests that remnants of Taliban in Swat and Malakand have adopted this to make easy money, local people told TheNation. They say these gangs have become active after Taliban in Swat and Malakand had suffered huge losses as a result of military operation Rah-e-Rast and their remnants consisting of several splinter groups have indulged in criminal activities that could help them make easy money. The kind of tactics being employed by these criminal gangs are akin to those introduced by the notorious Taliban group headed by the assassinated commander Baitullah Mehsud, Arif Khan, a resident of Mardan district, said. Taliban had recently kidnapped a Greek engineer from Chitral district and taken him to Afghanistan with the condition that he would be released only after payment of two million US dollars as well as the release of a few important Taliban leaders. Similarly, incidents of kidnapping for ransom and other crimes in the provincial metropolis Peshawar have increased manifold over the past few months. There is a significant sense of insecurity among the affluent families in Peshawar city and a fear of kidnapping for ransom after serious incidents had taken place in the metropolis in the past few months, a local businessman said. In Haripur district, that is otherwise more distant from Swat and Malakand than Mardan and Peshawar, outside criminal gangs have been spotted operating in parts of Khanpur, Kotnajibullah and Hattar police stations. Also comprising the same size of the gangs operating in Mardan and its adjacent districts, they have not yet indulged in any kidnapping for ransom incident but are engaged in targeted incidents of dacoities. Despite increased road patrolling by the local police, these gangs were active on the peripheral areas of Hattar Industrial Estate, Haripur. I have had an unpleasant encounter with one of the gangs on Hattar-Kalitarar-Mang walking path during eid holidays, Asghar, a local resident of Kalitarar Gharbi told TheNation, adding they did not harm him. He said all the nine people equipped with Kalashnikov rifles were speaking Pushto and were talking about Taliban.