In the deadliest attack on security forces this year, at least 23 Pakistan Army soldiers were martyred and more than 30 troops wounded after militants belonging to the Tehreek-i-Jihad Pakistan (TJP) stormed a compound used by the military in Dera Ismail Khan’s Daraban area in the early hours of Tuesday.
Six militants who stormed the building were killed. Separately, two military operations in Darazinda and Kolachi resulted in the deaths of 21 militants and claimed the lives of two soldiers, the military’s media wing said in a statement.
Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said a group of six militants stormed a security post in the early hours of Tuesday in Daraban, but their attempt was foiled.
The assault was followed by blasts, as militants rammed an explosive-laden vehicle into the gate and carried out a subsequent suicide bombing. “The resulting explosion caused the building to collapse, resulting in multiple casualties. All six militants were engaged and killed,” the ISPR statement said.
Sources told Dawn that the battle-ready troops were staying at a school compound adjacent to the Daraban police station to conduct search and strike operations in the area, where militancy has seen a significant spike over the past month.
According to local officials, an explosive-laden vehicle was rammed into the compound to clear the way for militants to enter the building. The first explosion was followed by multiple suicide blasts inside the school building.
The Bomb Disposal Squad said more than 100kg of high-grade explosives were used in the attack, which residents said continued for more than an hour. The slain and the wounded were moved to the Combined Military Hospital in D.I. Khan Cantonment by the Rescue 1122 officials.
The military said that seventeen terrorists were killed in Darazinda on the night between Monday and Tuesday and their hideout was busted. Four more militants were killed in another operation in Kulachi the same night, in which two soldiers also lost their lives, bringing the total number of soldiers martyred in the district to twenty-five, the statement said.
The TJP claimed responsibility for the attack and also released a two-minute video purporting to show militants targeting security personnel with thermal scopes. Security officials, however, claimed the video was not authentic.
A TJP spokesman, in his claim, said four bombers who took part in the attack hail from Lakki, Dera Ismail Khan, Swat, and Mardan districts. Pakistan has recently been claiming the involvement of Afghan nationals in terrorist attacks and the statement by the TJP appears to challenge that assertion.
Police sources said that increased militant activities of Tipu Gul and Gandapur groups have been seen in the Daraban area and that the matter. The two groups, sources said, entered an alliance to carry out coordinated attacks in Dera Ismail Khan and adjoining districts, including Lakki Marwat.
A security official said the leadership of the two groups was based in Afghanistan and orchestrating the attacks from the neighbouring country. Tepu Gul Marwat was reportedly assassinated in Afghanistan’s eastern Kunar province on October 11. His group is affiliated with the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan.
On the other hand, Pakistan demanded immediate and verifiable actions from the Afghan government against militant outfits fomenting terror in Pakistan, as it issued a demarche to Afghan Charge d’Affaires Sardar Ahmad Shakib.
Foreign Secretary Syrus Sajjad Qazi, who summoned Mr. Shakib, stressed the urgency and gravity of the situation, calling for a comprehensive investigation and decisive action against the perpetrators of the recent attack.
Pakistan demanded action against all terrorist groups, including their leadership and sanctuaries. The foreign secretary insisted on the apprehension and extradition of the perpetrators as well as the leaders of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) from Afghanistan. Mr. Qazi highlighted the continuous use of Afghan soil for terrorism against Pakistan, asserting that such actions posed a significant threat to regional peace and stability.
Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar said: “Their [security forces] dedication, sacrifice and valour in the face of terror is unparalleled and a beacon of hope for our nation. My deepest sympathies to the families of our brave martyrs. We will fight back till the menace of terrorism is eliminated from our motherland.
President Arif Alvi said such cowardly acts could not shake the resolve of the security personnel, according to Dawn.com.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and former president Asif Ali Zardari extended condolences to the grieving families. Mr. Bhutto-Zardari called attacks on both civilians and security forces unforgivable.
Caretaker Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas said, “Terrorists and their handlers, wherever they are, will pay for their cowardly attacks. Our brave soldiers are ready to make the ultimate sacrifice to blunt the nefarious designs of enemies.”