Pakistan Army Major, 3 Soldiers Killed in Latest Militant Attacks


ISLAMABAD: Clashes with militants and a suicide car bombing in northwestern Pakistan overnight killed at least four soldiers, including an army major.

A military statement said Thursday the violence occurred in Khyber and North Waziristan districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, both bordering Afghanistan and known former strongholds of militants.

The statement said that Pakistani security forces late Wednesday conducted an “intelligence-based operation” against a “terrorist” hideout in Khyber, and the ensuing gunfight killed Major Mian Abdullah Shah, who was leading the operation. “Three terrorists and their facilitators were apprehended,” the statement added.

The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, an outlawed group waging deadly attacks against security forces in the country, confirmed that its fighters were the target of the military raid.

The group, also known as the Pakistani Taliban, in a statement sent to journalists, claimed that TTP fighters retaliated and inflicted several casualties on security forces. The claims could not be confirmed from independent sources in the violence-ridden Pakistani districts.

The clashes came hours after a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-packed vehicle in North Waziristan, killing three soldiers and “critically” injuring three civilians, the military said Wednesday night.

“The suicide bomber intended to target the security forces post. However, timely interception of the suicide bomber on suspicion by on-duty soldiers prevented a major catastrophe,” the army statement said.

No group claimed responsibility for the car bombing but suspicion fell on TTP, which routinely carries out attacks in the North Waziristan district.

TTP, designated a global terrorist organization by the United States, has stepped up attacks in Pakistan since the Islamist Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan nearly two years ago after all U.S.-led NATO troops withdrew from the country.

Leaders and fighters of the Pakistani Taliban have taken refuge on Afghan soil and orchestrated cross-border terrorism from there, according to Pakistani officials.

Attacks carried out by TTP and other insurgent groups in Pakistan have reportedly killed nearly 400 people, including security forces, in the first six months of this year. The military has reported the death of more than 100 officers and soldiers in bombings and clashes with militants since the start of 2023.

The independent Geneva-based Small Arms Survey published a survey this week, saying that despite efforts by the ruling Afghan Taliban to consolidate control over stockpiles of now-defunct U.S.-trained and -equipped Afghan forces and clamp down on unauthorized dealers, groups like TTP continue to gain access to U.S. weaponry.

The group said the trend indicates “a clear inability or unwillingness” by the Taliban rulers to crack down on these activities.

“The situation in [Afghanistan’s] Nangarhar [province]—given its long border with Pakistan, the presence of significant arms markets, and a history of cross-border illicit trafficking—is of particular concern,” the report noted.

“Field research conducted in the province in late 2022 suggests that cross-border trafficking is continuing and that Afghan-sourced arms are both available in Pakistani markets and fueling TTP violence against the Pakistani state,” according to the survey findings.

Taliban authorities in Afghanistan reject allegations they are allowing TTP or any other group to use their territory to threaten other countries.__VOA News