BANNU/PESHAWAR/QUETTA: Following a terrorist attack on the Counter-Terrorism Department’s (CTD) compound in Bannu, talks between Pakistani officials and the leadership of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) are under way in Afghanistan, confirmed Mohammad Ali Saif, spokesperson for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, on Monday.
According to a foreign news agency, Pakistani authorities opened talks to try to resolve a stand-off with the TTP who were holding several security personnel hostage after seizing control of a counter-terrorism facility in the country’s northwest a day earlier.
“We are in negotiations with the central leaders of the Pakistani Taliban in Afghanistan,” said Saif. The spokesperson warned of strict action if the armed men do not surrender. In a bid to defuse tension at Pak-Afghan Chaman border, a 16-member jirga comprising eminent clerics, local elders and traders left for Afghanistan to negotiate with the TTP’s leadership on Monday.
Talking to journalists ahead of leaving the country, Mufti Muhammad Qasim said they are carrying a “message of peace and friendship” with them. “We received positive response from the Afghan authorities,” he added. The cleric added that loss of the common man is not in anyone’s interest.
Following the contacts and negotiations, the ongoing tension would be defused, hoped Malik Abdul Khaliq Achakzai. Meanwhile, no headway was made till Monday night as militants kept the CTD officials hostage in an office in Bannu for around 30 hours.
Reports said talks were going on to ensure safe release of those who were made hostages by the armed militants in an important office of the CTD in Bannu. “No progress has been made into the situation,” an official told on Monday night.
There were reports that at least two of the policemen who were injured on Sunday night were martyred in the incident. Few others were still hostages inside. “Two policemen died Sunday night,” an official confirmed.
Internet services remained suspended in parts of Bannu and the roads leading to and from the Bannu Cantonment were blocked. Miranshah Road andJumma Khan Road were also closed for all sorts of movements.
There were reports that top government officials were considering different options for the safe release of the hostages as well as to take back control of the office. Senior police, CTD and army officials were in Bannu throughout on Monday.
Reports said militants had taken control of an important office of the CTD in Bannu after they allegedly snatched guns from the officials during interrogation and made the cops inside the building hostages. They also set their men in the lock-ups free who joined them in taking all the interrogators into captivity.
The militants, around 20 in number, released a number of videos on social media in which they demanded safe passage for all their men from the office of the CTD that was in their control against the release of the men in the captivity. The sources have claimed that the terrorists are demanding a safe air route to Afghanistan.
One of the hostaged cop asked elders and religious scholars in a video to convince the government and the forces to let the militants go to their safe havens otherwise they will kill the hostages and others outside. In the videos on social media one could see many militants roaming in different sections of the CTD Bannu office.
“Many innocent were held this was why we took this step. An official Khurshid is with us who has been given medicines,” one of the militants said in a video. Special Assistant to Chief Minister on Information and Public Relations Barrister Muhammad Ali Saif on Monday said the provincial government was determined to eradicate terrorism.
He said though the PTI government tried to resolve matters through talks with armed groups, it would never show any leniency to deal with forces hostile to peace. The district administration in Bannu has announced closure of all public and private educational institutions in the district on Tuesday.
Separately, in a suicide attack in Miran Shah, North Waziristan, on Monday one soldier and two civilians were martyred. According to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), a suicide blast occurred in general area Miran Shah, North Waziristan District. Resultantly, Naik Abid (age 33 years, resident of Mansehra) and two civilians embraced shahadat while one civilian was injured in the incident.
This is second suicide attack in Miran Shah within five days. Earlier, one soldier and a civilian were martyred while nine other civilians were injured in a suicide attack in Miran Shah on December 14.
Meanwhile, an inspector of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) was martyred in an apparent target killing incident in Mathra here on Monday.
An official said the IB officer Shaukat Mahboob had come to the market for shopping daily use items when armed men opened fire on him on Warsak Road. He was taken to hospital but he succumbed to injuries.
Senior police officials rushed to the spot while a search operation is being carried out in the vicinity. “Evidence have been collected from the spot while entry and exit points of the city have been sealed,” an official said.
Policemen and officials of other law enforcement agencies are frequently coming under attack in Peshawar and other districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for the last many months. An official said most of the attacks were carried out on the police as the force lost 116 men in different kind of attacks while over 110 others were injured in KP during the current year.
On the other hand, at least 13 people were injured in an explosion near the Umar Farooq Chowk in Balochistan’s Khuzdar district on Monday night, police officials said. Khuzdar Station House Officer (SHO) Muhammad Jan Sasoli, while confirming the blast, told local media that the explosive was attached to a motorcycle in the area.
He said that the wounded have been moved to the District Headquarters Hospital, Khuzdar. “The police have reached the area and cordoned it off,” Sasoli added. Meanwhile, Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Quddus Bizenjo condemned the attack and imposed an emergency in hospitals across the city.
“Terrorists who target innocent people are enemies of the nation. No religion or society gives permission for this bloodshed,” he said in a statement. He said that the government was determined to eliminate all “anti-peace elements”.
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