Three policemen were martyred and four others were injured on Sunday in an ongoing operation against dacoits in the riverbed area in Khanpur, Shikarpur district, Sindh.
The outlaws attacked an armoured personnel carrier (APC) with rockets and anti-aircraft guns, killing the policemen.
Shikarpur SSP Ameer Saud Magsi confirmed the casualties in the operation. But, he claimed that six dacoits have also been killed. "We won't stop at any sacrifice. Until we don't recover all the kidnapped people, we will continue the operation," he said while talking to the media.
The martyred policemen have been identified as Jahanzeb Ujjar, Munawar Ali Jatoi and a photographer Hafeez Shaikh. Policemen Imran Soomro, Saeed Mehar, Asadullah Pahore and Sajjad Chandio were injured.
The body of at least one of the deceased was in the APC, which was captured by the dacoits as shown in a video recorded and released by the bandits.
The SSP claimed that during the operation they recovered four kidnapped persons on Saturday and two on Sunday, adding that two dacoits were also arrested on the previous day. He, however, did not disclose identities of the recovered persons.
Magsi denied that killings of the policemen, who were sitting inside the APC, reflected any weakness on part of the police preparedness for the operation. "Indeed by entering that area we broke the perception of a no-go zone which the dacoits had created." He asserted that the police were prepared to offer more sacrifices but they would not let morale be affected by such attacks.
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The assaulted police party was surrounded by the dacoits and it reportedly took hours for the police to send reinforcements after one of the policemen sitting in the damaged APC circulated a video among the police officers.
"Our jawans [young men] have been martyred. So far no police have arrived. Only two of us are left. This is our last video." He requested the SSP to send help. The deceased policemen can be seen in that video. The injured policemen in the APC earlier sent wireless messages for help which reportedly reached only once they sent the video.
The dacoits separately also released a video with around five persons standing outside the captured APC with their faces uncovered. One of them can be seen wearing a bullet proof jacket of the police.
The police reinforcements gathered at Garhi Tegho, head regulator of the irrigation department. But, the operation was suspended after the sunset.
In similar attacks on the APCs during the police operations against the bandits in last two years, SHO Ghulam Murtaza Mirani SHO, SHO Khanpur Rao Shakoor, an ASI and two policemen were also martyred in separate attacks.
These APCs are no longer considered safe for the police landing in combat against the well armed dacoits.
The Grand Democratic Alliance's General Secretary Ayaz Latif Palijo has called for lacing the police force with the advanced weaponry so that they can combat the well-equipped bandits. He also demanded an end to the provincial government's backing of feudal lords who patronise gangs of robbers, kidnappers and dacoits.
"The people of Sukkur and Larkana divisions are in danger due to the rising crimes and worsening law and order situation," he observed. "Sindh is being reduced to a cesspit of tribal feuds and lawlessness," he bemoaned. He said a well planned operation should be launched in the riverbed areas of the Indus river which have become a safe haven for such outlaws.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 24th, 2021.