SHABQADAR: Four heavily-armed suicide bombers attacked a major paramilitary base in Mohmand Agency on Saturday and killed two soldiers, but failed to storm a packed mosque inside.
A recently banned splinter group of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Jamaatul Ahrar, claimed responsibility for the pre-dawn attack on the headquarters of Mohmand Rifles in Ghallanai area where 450 recruits were to pass out in the morning.
“Security forces valiantly averted a suicide attack attempt on Ghallanai camp in Mohmand Agency, killing all four suicide bombers. Two security forces personnel dauntlessly laid down their lives in an effort to block the suicide bombers,” the Inter-Services Public Relations said in a statement.
The heavily armed bombers attacked a mosque in the residential quarters of the camp where a large number of recruits were offering Fajr prayers, according to the military’s media wing.
“Wearing suicide jackets they opened fire and tried to rush inside the mosque. They were taken on and contained in the outer courtyard of the mosque. Security forces surrounded the attackers and killed all of them,” the ISPR said, adding that two of the bombers managed to detonate their suicide vests.
A security forces official told The Express Tribune that the bomber sneaked into the camp from its western mountainous side, and tried to storm the Officers’ Mess and the main mosque, where Fajr prayers were being offered.
One of the bombers tried to enter the mosque, but an FC soldier, Wajid, took him down in the mosque’s outer courtyard. “Three other bombers were also shot dead by paramilitary troops guarding the main gate watchtower and quarter-guard watchtower,” he added.
Two FC soldiers sustained fatal injuries during the battle. “Fourteen people were wounded in the attack – four of them critically who were later referred to the Combined Military Hospital Peshawar for specialised treatment,” he said. After the deadly battle, paramilitary troops launched a senitisation operation on the camp premises.
The official said the bombers wanted to attack the recruits before their passing-out parade but their nefarious plot was foiled by the valiant soldiers. The parade later took place as per plan.
The ISPR said army chief General Raheel Sharif and Corps Commander Peshawar Lt Gen Hidayat Ur Rehman hailed the bravery of FC troops. Lt Gen Hidayat Ur Rehman and IGFC Maj Gen Mazhar Shaheen later visited the camp.
An official of the local political administration told The Express Tribune that after the botched assault, security forces clamped a curfew in the area and launched a search operation in Civil Colony Ghallanai.
“Search operations have also been carried out in some areas of Pandyali and Safi, while the roads leading to Peshawar, Mohmand and Bajaur remained closed from early morning till 2:30pm,” he said.
The failed attack comes a month after an overnight militant attack on the Police Training College on the outskirts of Quetta killed 58 people, mostly cadets, on October 25.
The army launched an operation, codenamed Zarb-e-Azb, in June 2014 in a bid to wipe out militant bases in tribal regions and so bring an end to a bloody insurgency that has cost thousands of civilian lives since 2004.
Operation Zarb-e-Azb has resulted in a marked decline in militant violence in the country. But the remnants of militant groups are still able to carry out periodic bloody attacks, particularly in the northwest.
According to data from the South Asia Terrorism Portal, 457 civilians and 182 members of the security forces were killed in Pakistan from January 1 to September 11, putting 2016 on course for fewer casualties than 2015. Last year, the country recorded its lowest number of killings since 2007, when the TTP was formed.
(With additional input from AFP)
Published in The Express Tribune, November 27th, 2016.
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