A day after Taliban insurgents crossed over from Afghanistan and mounted a deadly ambush on a patrol of Pakistani security forces, officials confirmed on Monday that 13 troops were killed, seven of them kidnapped and then beheaded.
This came as Islamabad lodged a ‘strong protest’ with Nato and Afghan forces, accusing them of failing to act against militant safe havens in Afghanistan.
The move is likely to intensify tensions between troubled allies Islamabad and Washington, which are currently involved in difficult talks to repair ties.
More than 100 militants based in eastern Afghan province of Kunar entered Upper Dir district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and attacked a military patrol on Sunday, according to a statement issued by the Foreign Office on Monday.
“In the (ensuing) exchange of fire, 11 militants were killed while six security forces personnel embraced Shahadat (martyrdom),” it said, adding that another 11 soldiers went missing after the ambush.
However, security officials said that seven of the 11 soldiers were beheaded by militants.
Around mid-day on Monday, the militants again fired two rockets from across the border which landed on Tripman heights in Lower Dir, officials said. “The rockets were followed by a hail of gunshots.”
The Malakand chapter of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the ambush.
“Our fighters mounted the attack as the Pakistani security forces reached the Sunai Kandau area in Barawal Tehsil of Upper Dir,” Sirajuddin, the group’s spokesperson told The Express Tribune by phone from an undisclosed location.
He claimed that 17 troops have been killed and that they were in possession of 16 bodies. He further claimed that the TTP militants had also seized 17 G3 rifles and a huge quantity of ammunition in the raid.
“Our fight will continue until the establishment of Islamic Sharia in Pakistan ... We will fight whoever tries to stand in our way,” Sirajuddin said.
Incensed by the deadly ambush, Pakistan summoned the Afghan deputy head of mission to the Foreign Office to register a ‘strong protest’. “The Afghan diplomat was informed that the government of Afghanistan should take appropriate measures to prevent recurrence of similar incidents in the future,” said the Foreign Office statement.
Fazlullah Wahidi, the governor of Kumar province, said militants were based in Pakistan, not Afghanistan. “We don’t have any information about militants crossing the border from Afghanistan to attack troops in Pakistan,” he told Reuters.
(With additional input on Reuters)
Published in The Express Tribune, June 26th, 2012.