CHITRAL/PESHAWAR: Around 300 militants on Saturday morning crossed into Pakistan from Afghanistan’s territory and stormed seven security checkpoints along the Durand Line.
There were, however, conflicting reports about the casualties suffered by Pakistani security personnel in the coordinated attacks by Taliban militants. The military put the figure at 25, a provincial minister raised it to 30, independent sources said more than 60 might have been killed while the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Malakand division, which claimed responsibility for the attack, claimed killing 80 security personnel and capturing another six.
According to Reuters, hundreds of militants from Afghanistan launched a pre-dawn cross-border raid on Pakistani paramilitary posts on Saturday, killing up to 36 people, government and security officials said. A senior Chitral Scouts official, Haroon Rasheed, said 26 soldiers and 10 border police were killed. An Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement said 25 Pakistani security personnel were killed in the attacks on their checkpoints.
The ISPR statement said 16 of the dead belonged to the Chitral Scouts, a wing of the paramilitary Frontier Corps. It said four policemen and five Chitral Levies personnel also died in the attacks.
The statement added that 20 militants were killed in the fighting with security forces but there was no information about their bodies. Provincial Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said 30 soldiers and cops had lost their lives and several others went missing during the clashes with the militants. Talking to The News, he feared that the death toll could rise as the authorities were still looking for the missing FC, police and Levies personnel.
“Some bodies of the slain security personnel had been recovered while several others are still missing. Some of the bodies and injured security personnel were thrown into the river by the militants and they could not be found as it was dark and then the area is far away from the main city,” Mian Iftikhar explained.
The minister, who belongs to the nationalist Awami National Party, said they hold the Afghan government and Nato responsible for allowing terrorists to carry out attacks inside Pakistan and kill innocent people.“This is barbarism and naked aggression from Afghanistan’s territory,” he said.
Independent sources in Chitral said that more than 60 people of Chitral Scouts, local police and Levies Force had lost their lives in the unexpected attacks by the Taliban militants. The sources said around 300 armed militants crossed the border from Afghanistan’s Kunar and Nuristan provinces and stormed seven security checkpoints in the mountains along the Afghan border.
“Pakistani security forces reportedly retaliated to the attacks and offered tough resistance for some time, but they went short of ammunition and some were killed and others started surrendering to the invading militants,” the sources said.
During the hours long clashes, two Pakistani border checkpoints, including Langorbat and Kavoti, were overrun by the militants. The Langorbat Domainisar and Kavoti posts were attacked simultaneously. Rockets were also fired on the Mirkhani post, 15 kilometres away from Darosh town. Sources said the Kavoti post was completely destroyed in the attack.
After ruthlessly murdering the security men, the militants seized their weapons and set on fire the two posts before escaping to the neighbouring Kunar and Nuristan provinces in Afghanistan where they have established sanctuaries.
Some villagers living in the border areas near Arandu saw Nato helicopters flying over the mountainous areas of Afghanistan and Chitral during the clashes between the militants and Pakistani security personnel.
Sirajuddin, the TTP spokesman for Malakand division and a close aide to Swat Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah, called The News from somewhere in Afghanistan and claimed responsibility for the attacks on the border posts in Chitral.
He said 300 militants, hailing from various parts of Malakand region, took part in the attacks. He claimed killing 80 Pakistani security personnel and holding hostage six others and shifting them to their bases in Afghanistan.
The Taliban spokesman denied reports that the Afghan Taliban were also involved in the attacks. “The Taliban from Malakand region are based here in Nuristan and only our fighters carried out the coordinated attacks in Chitral,” he stressed.
Sirajuddin claimed that three Pakistani border posts were captured and destroyed and the one in Mirkhani was hit with rockets. He also conceded the loss of four Taliban fighters in the fighting.
Pakistani military authorities said due to the inadequate presence of Nato and Afghan forces along the Pak-Afghan border, the terrorists were using these areas as safe havens and have mounted repeated attacks against Pakistani security forces posts and border villages.
They said for the last one year, Pakistan shared accurate intelligence information about the presence of terrorists in this area with Nato and Afghan authorities, but no action was taken against them.
Earlier in April, the Afghanistan-based Pakistani militants had intruded into Lower Dir and then in June into Upper Dir and killed more than 50 security forces personnel and policemen. Later, they launched some attacks in Bajaur Agency’s Mamond Tehsil and inflicted losses on Pakistani border guards and villagers. Retaliatory attacks by Pakistani forces caused casualties to the militants, though Afghan officials said some of their villagers in Kunar and Nangarhar provinces were also killed and wounded in the rocketing and artillery shelling undertaken from Pakistan’s territory.
Some of the slain security personnel were identified as Subedar Younas, Inayat Ghazi, Manzoor Ahmad, Shali Khan, Jalaluddin, Ziaul Mulk, Hazrat Umar, Hashim Panah, Muhammad Shoaib, Nasirul Mominin, Rehmat, Bashir Ahmad, Salahuddin, Sareer Ahmed, Qari Azam, Muhammad Aslam, Zafar Ali, Rehmat Nazir, Ali Haider, Zafar Khan, Bajgi Khan, Nazir Ahmed, Hazratullah, Tariq Muhammad and Sher Akbar. The slain policemen included Jannat Gul, Sharafuddin and Sareer Rehmat while the deceased Muhammad Azam belonged to the border police.
The injured included Subedar Kareem, Muhammad Yamin, Sultanuddin, Muhammad Iqbal, Naib Subedar Bohtan Wali, Anwarul Haq, Nazir and Tariq Jalal.