PESHAWAR: Casualties suffered by the Pakistan Army in a cross-border attack in Upper Dir district have reached 13 as seven soldiers, who were captured by the militants, have been beheaded, official sources said on Monday.
The general officer commanding (GOC) for the region flew to Upper Dir to take stock of the security situation after the attack and escalating tension on the Pak-Afghan border.
The Sunday’s attack in Sunai Darra, which was launched by Maulana Fazlullah-led militants from Afghanistan’s Kunar province, became the second deadliest attack in Upper Dir and the first fatal raid against the army after itsdeployment on the Durand Line last year.
Reports suggested that 20 persons had been missing after the attack. Sources said that 12 of the missing soldiers were from the army, six were paramilitary personnel and two were civilians. However, officials said 11 soldiers had gone missing and the militants had beheaded seven of them. There was no word on the fate of rest of the missing persons.
The official sources said security forces had killed 14 militants in the fight that was triggered by the attack. The claim could not be verified independently.
Ihsanullah Ihsan, spokesman for the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), challenged the official claim about the militants’ casualties. He said only one militant had suffered injuries. In an e-mail to reporters, he asserted that they had captured 20 troops, including 15 Pakistan Army soldiers and five Frontier Corps personnel. He said the soldiers had been shifted to safe havens and their fate would be decided soon.
The officials said more than 100 militants took part in the raid and crossed into Pakistan from their sanctuaries in Afghanistan. The militants attacked the soldiers who were patrolling the border, killing six of them and taking 11 hostages, the sources added.
They said the militants on Monday fired two rockets from across the border on the soldiers in Tripaman heights in Lower Dir. The militants also used sniper rifles to hit security forces’ positions at the height. However, no casualty was reported.
Maj Gen Ghulam Qamar, GOC for the Malakand Division, rushed to Dir town, the district headquarters of Upper Dir, and held a meeting with army commanders. He reviewed the situation after the attack and continuing threat from the militants based across the border.
An official said the GOC issued instructions to the forces in the area. He said all the posts were intact on the border and the post that was attacked had been reinforced. Also, the Pakistan Army contacted its “counterparts” in Afghanistan and “strongly protested” over the attack and lack of action against the militants’ sanctuaries.
The military has been angry over the silence of US-led Nato forces to act against the safe havens in Afghanistan. This lack of action is threatening the military’s successes in the Malakand region, including Swat. The US pressured Pakistan to act against the militants in Swat but now it has been unwilling or unable to launch an offensive against the Maulana Fazlullah-led militants.
The military in late April said the militants were gathering in hundreds in the Kunar province to attack security forces on the border. But the US and Afghan forces ignored the concern and did not move against the militants. The cross-border raids have been bedevilling relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan and also with the United States.
Over 100 security forces personnel, besides dozens of villagers, have been killed in these raids since June 2011 when the militants first attacked Shaltalo, a border village in Upper Dir. The military moved around 8,000 soldiers last September to protect the border along Upper Dir. The Sunday’s attack was the first major raid since the forces’ deployment and the first time the army suffered over a dozen fatalities. The militants’ concentration across the border also threatens Lower Dir and Chitral that were attacked during last one year.