Pakistan special forces free hostages, kill all 33 militants at anti-terrorism centre: Minister - GulfToday

Pakistan special forces free hostages, kill all 33 militants at anti-terrorism centre: Minister


Security officials guard a blocked road leading to the counter-terrorism centre in Bannu on Tuesday. AP

Tariq Butt, Correspondent / Agencies

The compound of the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) in Bannu, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), was cleared after nearly two days and all the 33 terrorists who overpowered guards were killed in an operation, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif told the National Assembly on Tuesday.

Briefing the National Assembly, he said 10-15 soldiers had been injured and two embraced martyrdom after the Special Service Group (SSG) of the Pakistan army launched an operation earlier on Tuesday.

“By 2:30pm, the SSG had cleared the compound. All the hostages have been freed,” the minister said. He also mentioned that the militants were not part of one group, rather they belonged to different banned outfits.

The minister added that there were 33 terrorists holed up in the compound and one of them overpowered a man stationed at the centre. He then snatched his weapon and later the terrorists took over the centre, he said.

Pakistanpolice-Bannucheckpost Police stand guard along a road they blocked after militants seized a police station in Bannu. AFP

Terrorists affiliated with the outlawed Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) were involved in the incident and in a bid to end the standoff, the Pakistani government initiated talks with the militant group’s leadership. The terrorists were demanding a safe air route to Afghanistan.

“The unfortunate side of this incident is that terrorism is once again rearing its head, especially in KP and Balochistan. Incidents have taken place in other provinces, but in these two provinces, we have seen clear evidence,” said an official.

Security forces launched an operation to free hostages being held by TTP militants at the CTD station. Explosions were heard during the operation.

The defence minister said while the KP was gripped by terrorism, the entire provincial government was sitting in Lahore with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan, scheming to dissolve the provincial assemblies.

He said while the KP government freely uses the official helicopters, these machines were not available for the operation against the terrorists. The CTD, he said, was of the KP government.

The hostage situation entered its third day on Tuesday as talks to resolve the stand-off with the militants failed to make headway. Since no breakthrough was made and the situation remained tense in the town, deputy commissioner Bannu declared that all government and private educational institutions across the district will remain closed on Tuesday.

All routes leading to Bannu cantonment were closed to traffic, with the barricades manned by law enforcement personnel. Authorities also shut down the cellular network in the district.

Three days back, two CTD officials were martyred and many more injured after a militant overpowered interrogators, snatched an AK-47 rifle and opened fire inside the CTD station in Bannu.

The TTP, which is separate from the Afghan Taliban but with a similar hardline ideology, emerged in Pakistan in 2007 and carried out a horrific wave of violence that was largely crushed after a military operation beginning in 2014.

Attacks are rising again since the Afghan Taliban seized control of Kabul last year, with most targeting security forces. Racketeering has infested Pakistan’s borderlands, locals say, with the TTP emboldened by its sister movement’s success.

A shaky months-long ceasefire between the TTP and Islamabad ended last month.

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