UPPER DIR: Four military men – including a senior officer – were martyred during an intelligence-driven raid on a mountainous hideout of terrorists in Upper Dir district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa near the border with Afghanistan. A search operation mounted after the deadly raid yielded several arrests and a cache of arms and explosives.
“An officer and three soldiers sacrificed their lives while foiling a devastating terrorist activity,” chief military spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor said in a statement. The martyred military men have been identified as Major Ali Salman, Havaldar Ghulam Nazir, Havaldar Akhtar, and Sepoy Abdul Karim.
Major Salman, who was working with an intelligence agency, led his soldiers in an intelligence-based operation (IBO) against a hideout of terrorists in the Sherotkai area of Timergara, according to the military’s media wing, the ISPR.
The terrorists – two of them suicide bombers – holed up inside the hideout opened fire on the raiding party, while one of them detonated his explosive vest. The second bomber was killed in the gunfight. A third terrorist was arrested during the raid. Though the ISPR didn’t say anything about the injuries, local sources say four military men, among them a captain, were also wounded.
Reports from the area gave a detailed account of the raid. According to them, the IBO was launched after the military was tipped off about the presence of senior Taliban commander Omar Daraz Khan and his fighters at a vacant house in Sherotkai village near a nullah, Janrdo Khawar, on the border with Afghanistan.
Commending the services of the martyred military personnel, the DG ISPR Maj-Gen Asif Ghafoor said Maj Salman was the “pride of a father, family, institution and the nation”.
The Major Salman-led team raided the hideout and eliminated two terrorists holed up inside. In the meantime, two suicide bombers attacked the raiding party from behind, leaving four military men, including Major Salman, dead and another four, among them Captain Zeeshan, injured.
A senior police officer told The Express Tribune that the terrorists had sneaked into the area from neighbouring Afghanistan on horses and mules a few days ago. Armed with suicide jackets and heavy weapons, they took over a vacant house to plot a terrorist attack. “The suicide bomber detonated the charge when Major Salman got hold of him while he was fleeing,” the police officer added.
The two dead terrorists were identified as Saeed and Abdullah, while a third body was also found in the hideout. Commander Omar Daraz, who had managed to flee during the raid, was later arrested during a combing operation. At least 10 people, including relatives of the suicide bombers and Commander Daraz, were also taken into custody. A curfew was imposed in the area during the operation.
Geographically, the densely forested mountainous region is virtually impassable, but terrorists use the terrain to their advantage for movement between Pakistan and their bases in neighbouring Afghanistan. TTP chief Mullah Fazlullah once held sway over the area before he and his fighters had been routed in a military operation.
Terrorist violence has declined in the country in recent years following a series of military offensives against insurgents along the northwestern border. But the remnants of militant groups are still able to carry out periodic bloody attacks, particularly in the northwest.
Prime Minister Khaqan Abbasi expressed grief over the martyrdom of the four army personnel. “Each drop of blood of our heroes is a testament to the fact that we all are united as a nation to cleanse our beloved motherland from terrorist elements,” the premier was quoted as saying.
He added that Pakistan’s valiant forces have inflicted huge damage upon terrorists and have rendered huge sacrifices in doing so. “These cowardly attacks on our law enforcing agencies can never shake our resolve to back-off or slowdown in our resolve to continue with the anti-terror operations,” PM Abbasi said.
Meanwhile, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Spokesperson Muhammad Khurrasani claimed that their men clashed with the security forces in Sultan Khel area of Lower Dir.
In an email sent to media houses, Khurrasani claimed that the security forces personnel were on their way for an operation when the bloody encounter took place.
The Dir raid was being conducted as part of Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad which was launched in February to dismantle remaining terrorists networks in the country.
“Operation aims at indiscriminately eliminating residual / latent threat of terrorism, consolidating gains of operations made thus far and further ensuring security of the borders,” the military had said while launching the operation.
Earlier in March this year, two Pakistan Army officials, including a captain, were martyred during an exchange of fire in Malikabad area of Swabi. Security forces were conducting an IBO in the area when they came under attack. The deceased were identified as Captain Junaid and Sepoy Amjad.