Saturday, 27 August 2011

36 Pakistani Soldiers Killed

PESHAWAR: At least 36 Pakistani security personnel were killed and dozens of others injured when hundreds of Taliban insurgents from Afghanistan attacked border checkpoints in Pakistan's north western Chitral district on Saturday.

This was the latest in a series of attacks that militants carried out inside Pakistan from their bases in Afghanistan's Nuristan and Kunar provinces, bordering Chitral. Since the US pulled out its troops from eastern Afghanistan, the Taliban insurgents and the Hizb-i-Islami militia of former Afghan prime minister Gulbuddin Hikmatyar re-established their bases in the two provinces. Pakistani Taliban on the run from military offensives in the country's north west also sneaked into Nuristan and Kunar which they use now as a launching pad against Pakistani forces stationed in Chitral, Dir and Swat regions.

According to security officials, hundreds of militants attacked Pakistan's paramilitary posts and civilian settlements in Arandhi and Drosht areas of Chitral before dawn on Saturday.

"Twenty-six soldiers and 10 border police were killed. About a dozen militants were also killed in retaliatory attacks," said colonel Haroon Rasheed, Chitral's FC commandant. He said that militants attacked some posts with heavy weapons while firing mortar bombs on others causing the casualties.

However, there was no independent verification of the militants death toll. One official said that clashes between the security forces and militants were still going on in the border areas. Pakistani troops also blew up three bridges on Saturday in the border region to halt the militants incursion.

Around 60 Pakistani soldiers were killed in clashes in July when some 600 militants from Afghanistan attacked two Pakistani villages in the upper Dir region. The Pakistani Taliban later claimed responsibility for the Dir attack. Pakistani militants have largely relied on a campaign of suicide and bomb attacks but carrying out large-scale attacks on government and army targets seem to be their new strategy.

Last year, Afghan officials claimed that Maulana Fazlullah (mullah radio), who escaped military operation in Swat, had been killed in a clash between security forces and militants in the Barg Mittal area of Nuristan.

For long Kabul and Washington blamed Pakistan for not doing enough to stop the infiltration of militants into Afghanistan from its tribal badlands. Pakistan told Washington and Kabul last summer to stem the flow of militants into its border areas.

While the border attacks continued, gunmen kidnapped and killed a retired army colonel on Saturday in the northwestern garrison city of Kohat. Police said that they seized Col. Shakeel Ahmad when he was on his way home from morning prayers. Police intercepted the gunmen in a car at a checkpoint and engaged them in a gunfight in which one police officer was killed. The abductors escaped and later shot dead Ahmad and abandoned his body alongside a road.


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