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June 16, 2018

Three troops martyred in NWA cross-border attacks

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June 16, 2018

PESHAWAR: Five terrorists were killed as the Pakistan Army repulsed multiple cross-border attacks and fire raids on its posts along the Pak-Afghan border area in the North Waziristan Agency on Friday, according to the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR).

"Terrorists from across the Pak-Afghan border attempted multiple physical and fire raids on the Pakistan Army posts in Shawal, North Waziristan Agency," the ISPR said in a statement. The security forces valiantly repulsed all attempts to overrun posts and inflicted major damage on terrorists. During the exchange of fire, three Pakistan Army soldiers also embraced martyrdom. The martyrs included Havaldar Iftikhar, a resident of Sargodha, Sepoy Aftab from Chitral and Sepoy Usman, resident of Gujarat.

The cross-border attacks by terrorists came two days after the killing of banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Mullah Fazlullah in a US drone strike in Afghanistan's Kunar province. Fazlullah was killed along with four other commanders in a US drone strike in Kunar on June 13.

The Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Afghan Ministry of Defence and Taliban sources confirmed the killing of Fazlullah and four other commanders in Kunar. The Afghan president made a phone call to Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa to share the news of killing of Mullah Fazlullah.

The Afghan Defence Ministry spokesperson, Mohammad Radmanish, told CNN that Mullah Fazlullah, who led the TTP from 2013, was killed in the US strike on June 13. "I confirm that Mullah Fazlullah, leader of the Pakistani Taliban, has been killed in a joint air operation [with the US] in the border area of Marawera district of Kunar province," Mohammad Radmanish told Reuters, adding the air attack was carried out at about 9am local time on Thursday.

The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) acknowledged that its leader had been killed, according to Turkey’s Anadolu Agency. The TTP accused the Afghan intelligence service NDS, which has long been suspected by Pakistan of harbouring Fazlullah, of providing information for the drone attack. Senior members of the Pakistani Taliban in Afghanistan said they had heard that a drone had targeted Mullah Fazlullah Khorasani on the night between Wednesday and Thursday. Taliban sources said Fazlullah attended an Iftar dinner at a militant camp and the drone struck the vehicle when he left in a car.

According to Taliban sources, four other militant commanders, travelling with Maulana Fazlullah, were also killed in the drone strike. "We heard from our people that ameer saib (Mullah Fazlullah) was travelling in a car along with four other commanders when he came under drone attack in Chaugam area of Shegal," said a TTP member on condition of anonymity. He said Fazlullah was staying in the Chaugam area of Shegal in Kunar.

Maulvi Obaidur Rahman, a member of Pakistani Taliban, said they came to know about the incident two days ago and since then they had been trying to contact their leadership but in vain. "Most of our people are seriously concerned after they heard about this incident but the top leadership is out of reach," said the militant commander. He said besides Fazlullah Khorasani, four other militant commanders, including Maulana Omar, Maulana Imran, Maulana Sajid and Maulvi Abu Bakar, were also travelling with him in the same car and are believed to have been killed in the drone strike. Taliban sources said all of them were buried in the same village.

Some in Pakistani Taliban were neither able to confirm nor deny the killing of their top commander. However, people close to the Pakistani Taliban in Afghanistan started to believe that something had happened to their leader. "We have not been able to get solid evidence about his death. But at the same time, we aren't able, despite many efforts, to learn if he is alive as none of their commanders here have any information about the whereabouts of Maulana Fazlullah after the drone strike," said a militant commander close to the TTP. Pleading anonymity, he said after the news of Fazlullah's killing surfaced in the media, they and many other people in their network made all-out efforts to contact people close to their commander but they couldn't succeed. "Obviously there is something very huge to come for which our people have started to prepare themselves.”

The Taliban spokesman Mohammad Khorasani has not been able to either confirm or deny the loss of their leader. Taliban usually avoid confirming losses of their leaders immediately. Fazlullah was a bone of contention between the authorities in Pakistan and the United States with the former pointing a finger at the latter for not targeting the dreaded militant operating from his safe havens in Afghanistan.

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