The Counter-Terrorism Department’s (CTD) centre in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Bannu has been cleared and all 33 terrorists who took over the compound have been killed, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said Tuesday — three days after militants overpowered security guards in the centre.
Ten to fifteen soldiers had been injured and two martyred after the Pakistan Army’s Special Service Group (SSG) launched an operation earlier today, the minister said in his briefing to the National Assembly.
“By 2:30pm, the SSG had cleared the compound. All the hostages have been freed,” the minister said. The defence minister also mentioned that the militants were not part of one group, rather they belonged to different banned outfits.
He added that there were 33 arrested terrorists inside 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, Asif said.
Terrorists affiliated with the outlawed Tehreek-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.
Sources earlier told Geo News that 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.”
The defence minister also mentioned that the militants were not part of one group, rather they belonged to different banned outfits.
The defence minister mentioned that the provincial government — which oversees the CTD — has “completely failed” in carrying out its responsibility.
“The entire provincial government was a hostage of Imran Khan in Zaman Park. On the other hand, innocent people in KP were made hostage [by terrorists],” he said.
Asif added that even when floods hit KP, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government — which is in power for the last nine years — has repeatedly failed to live up to the expectations.
“But this, this is an ‘utter failure’. Ultimately, our security forces had to get involved and sacrifice their lives […] the provincial government had no role in it whatsoever. This is a failure of nine years, not six months or a year,” he said.
Asif said Imran even uses the helicopters of the provincial government. “He is also thinking to come into power once again and destroy anything that is left,” the minister said.
The defence minister slammed the KP government further and said that it was at a “complete collapse”.
Rising terror incidents
The law and order situation in KP has gone south over the last few weeks as an increase has been noticed in threats and attacks on security forces as well as high-profile political personalities.
According to a report published in The News, the police are on high alert across the province after the recent spike in attacks in areas including Peshawar, southern districts, and the Mardan region.
The publication, citing a source, said: “Apart from the police, senior politicians have complained of receiving threats. The houses of some of them have also come under grenade attack.”
Provincial spokesperson of the Awami National Party (ANP) Samar Bilour has also shared that their provincial president Aimal Wali Khan had received a call about a plan of attack on his life.
Samar said that their leadership’s protection is the state’s responsibility, adding that they will be left with no other option but to take the protection of their leaders into their own hands if the state does not act.
“Apart from Aimal Wali Khan, Sardar Hussain Babak and others have received threats as well while the house of MPA Faisal Zeb was attacked twice in the last few weeks,” Samar had said last week.
Apart from the attack on the house of ANP MPA Faisal Zeb in Shangla, a grenade was hurled at the house of party Senator Hidayatullah in Peshawar in recent months.
The wave of terrorist attacks has risen across the province in the last few months, the report said. At least 118 terrorist incidents were reported in KP from mid-August till the last week of November, according to official numbers.
At least 26 policemen, 12 personnel of other law enforcement agencies and 17 civilians were killed in terror incidents across the KP. Moreover, 18 policemen, 10 civilians, and 37 law enforcement agencies personnel suffered injuries in these attacks.
A dozen districts, including Peshawar, Mardan, Bajaur, Mohmand, Dera Ismail Khan, Tank, Kohat, Bannu, and Nowshera came under attack in November.
US offers help
Amid the rising terror incidents in Pakistan, the United States has offered to help the country in dealing with the threats posed by the militant outfits.
During a press briefing, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price was asked to comment on terrorism and the hostage situation in Bannu.
“Well, first on the ongoing situation in Pakistan, we are of course aware. We’ve been closely following reports that militants have seized control of the counterterrorism centre in Bannu,” he said.
“We offer our deepest sympathies to those injured,” Price said and urged those responsible for the attack to cease all acts of violence, to safely release those who remain hostage, and to end the seizure of the counterterrorism centre.
The spokesperson said that Islamabad is a partner when it comes to these shared challenges, including the challenge of terrorist groups — terrorist groups inside of Afghanistan, and terrorist groups along the Afghan-Pakistan border.
“We have partnered with our Pakistani friends to take on — to help them take on this challenge. We stand ready to assist, whether with this unfolding situation or more broadly. But this is a situation for which we’d have to refer you to Pakistani authorities.”