Four people were killed in an abortive hostage-taking attempt by Taliban suicide bombers at the office of a local police chief in a southern district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) on Saturday.
The outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the brazen attack on the office of District Police Officer (DPO) Sohail Khalid in Dera Ismail Khan city that also left four bombers dead.
“The attack was mounted by four suicide bombers who, it appeared, wanted to take over the building,” DPO Khalid told The Express Tribune. Khalid rejected media reports claiming that he was also injured in the attack that lasted over two hours. “I’m absolutely fine,” he said.
The attackers made their way into the building in the hail of gunshots. Police commandos fanned across the area while the authorities called in army troops.
Three suicide bombers detonated the explosives strapped to their bodies and one was shot dead by army troops, K-P police chief Akbar Hoti said. Army troops managed to rescue DPO Khalid from the building.
When the firefight died down, security forces launched a search operation inside the building.
“Army and police units have entered the police station and the search operation is over,” Hoti said after the operation. “We have recovered bodies of four militants, they were all wearing suicide vests,” he added.
One police official and three civilians were also killed in the operation, he said adding that eight others including a policeman were wounded.
“Two of the bombers were foreigners,” sources said and added that one injured militant belonging to Tank district was also taken into custody.
A local journalist said he was at the nearby DSP office when the attack took place. “I saw two men running towards the DPO office and then two loud explosions followed,” he told The Express Tribune.
Ashiq Saleem, a stenographer at DPO Khalid’s office, said that there was a blast and they tried to rush out – but the attackers lobbed four hand grenades into the building. “We hid behind a cupboard and were lucky enough to survive,” he said.
“Some of the attackers were disguised as police officials. And they entered the DPO office from a nearby under-construction building,” K-P Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain told a news conference in Peshawar.
He speculated that the attack could be in retaliation for a recent operation by security forces in Draban, DI Khan, where a number of militants were killed and many captives were released.
Referring to media reports about peace talks between security agencies and TTP, Hussain said that “individual negotiations are useless.”
TTP spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan claimed responsibility for the attack. “Our fighters carried out this attack,” he told local journalists by phone and warned that such attacks would continue in the future.
It was the second major attack on police in DI Khan during the ongoing insurgency. Ten policemen were killed in a massive suicide attack on a police station in June last year.
(With additional input from Agencies)
Published in The Express Tribune, January 15th, 2012.