PESHAWAR: Five militants, three of them wearing suicide vests, were killed on Tuesday in a botched attempt to target cadets at a military training centre in the heart of Mardan city, military officials said.
Four soldiers were also wounded in a gunfight following the brazen attack on the Punjab Regiment Centre (PRC) in Mardan, the hometown of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti.
According to a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), three suicide bombers, backed by four heavily-armed militants tried to enter the PRC’s training area at around 5:00am. “Army soldiers posted on the entrance spotted the attackers and opened fire. The bombers detonated the explosives before reaching their target,” the statement added.
The four armed insurgents, providing cover to the bombers, opened fire on the troops from the rooftops of nearby buildings, the statement said. Troops returned the fire and in the ensuing gunfight, four soldiers were wounded.
Minutes after the gun battle, troops mounted a search operation in the area around the PRC. Two of the militants were killed during the search operation, while troops were hunting the remaining two in the area which is thickly populated.
“Three suicide bombers scaled the walls of the military training centre and managed to get inside,” Akhtar Ali Shah, the deputy inspector-general (DIG) of police Mardan Range, told journalists. “The attackers wanted to target military recruits busy in their morning drill at the centre’s ground,” he said. However, timely action by troops averted the attack as the bombers detonated the explosives strapped to their bodies before reaching their target.
Sources said that security forces have found a National Identity Card (NIC) from the site, which shows that one of the bombers was a resident of Thall tehsil of Hangu district. Nobody claimed responsibility for the attack, but Taliban militants who are active in the area have carried out several attacks on government and military targets in the past.
It was the second commando-style attack on military establishments by militants this month. On July 5, four suicide attackers were killed when they tried to storm a military checkpoint in Timergarah, the main town in Lower Dir district.
Analysts say that several military operations in tribal regions and neighbouring settled districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa have dealt a heavy blow to insurgents but militants have shown they are still capable of carrying out bomb and suicide attacks on civilians and security personnel. (With additional input from Wires)
Published in The Express Tribune, July 21st, 2010.