Pakistan’s special forces storm counter-terrorism centre to free hostages
Peshawar: Pakistani Army’s special forces on Tuesday stormed a counter-terrorism centre in the restive Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province to free hostages taken by the Taliban militants after negotiations between the government and the militants failed to resolve the more than 40-hour long standoff.
The government tried to negotiate with the militants to end the hostage crisis at the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) police station inside the Bannu Cantonment but after failed efforts, commandos from the Pakistan Army’s Special Services Group (SSG) stormed the compound, officials said.
All terrorists were killed in the operation that lasted for 15 minutes, officials said.
Nine special forces personnel, including a Major, were injured in the operation and taken to a nearby hospital, they said.
Forces are, however, further combing the area to search for and neutralise any threats still hiding out there.
Footage aired on TV on Tuesday showed plumes of smoke rising in the air from the CTD compound.
The standoff began on Sunday when an arrested Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militant, who was being interrogated at the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) police station inside the Bannu Cantonment, snatched an AK-47 from the police and opened fire.
He then freed other wanted militants being held at the building and together they took control of the compound. They also took several policemen as hostages.
The TTP demanded safe passage for its militants either to South or North Waziristan tribal districts.
The situation in Bannu remained tense as police and security agencies have asked residents to remain indoors. A security alert was issued earlier and all schools and colleges in the Bannu district remained closed on Tuesday.
Mobile services in the cantonment area and the surrounding areas were also suspended, officials said.
On Monday, TTP spokesman Muhammad Khurasani said that militants from his group seized the compound after reports of inhuman treatment of prisoners in the CTD police station by security personnel.
The TTP, set up as an umbrella group of several militant outfits in 2007, last month called off a ceasefire agreed upon with the federal government in June and ordered its militants to stage terrorist attacks across the country.
The group, which is believed to be close to al-Qaeda, has been blamed for several deadly attacks across Pakistan, including an attack on army headquarters in 2009, assaults on military bases, and the 2008 bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad.
In 2014, the Pakistani Taliban stormed the Army Public School (APS) in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing at least 150 people, including 131 students. The attack sent shockwaves across the world, and was widely condemned.
In a separate incident, at least 50 militants stormed a police station early Tuesday morning in Wana, situated in the tribal district of South Waziristan.
“More than 50 militants stormed into the police station and opened fire, injuring a constable. They took away ammunition, weapons and other equipment,” the district’s chief police officer said.
One militant was killed in the retaliatory fire.
The rest have managed to flee, police said.
A search operation is currently underway to nab the culprits, police added.