PESHAWAR: More than 220 people were arrested in a search operation jointly conducted by the Pakistan Army and local police in Suleman Khel, Masho Khel, Sheikh Muhammadi and adjacent villages after PIA flight PK-756 was attacked late Tuesday night.
Unidentified militants started firing at the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) aircraft coming from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia when it was about to land at Bacha Khan International Airport (BKIA).
While the pilot managed to land the plane safely, a steward and two passengers were injured and taken to Combined Military Hospital where one of the passengers, Mrs Maknon, succumbed to her injuries. Talking to The Express Tribune, a Badhaber police official said the airliner was attacked with an AK-47 rifle, adding the attackers used incendiary bullets.
“Around 3am on Wednesday morning, police and army troops cordoned off the area and started a door-to-door search operation which ended at 9am,” said the official, adding 227 suspects were arrested from these villages. Those arrested have been shifted to Government Girls High School, Badhaber for interrogation due to the non-availability of another building large enough to accommodate them.
“People saw the airliner being fired upon and we suspect involvement of local militant groups,” said the police official.
The residents, however, were not happy about a search operation conducted without women police constables. They maintained that this was against local traditions and could provoke people to extend support to militants rather than cooperate with law enforcement agencies.
“Militants cross the Khyber Agency border at night, and after roaming around in the area for several hours, they go back to Akka Khel. The police should be blocking entry points along the border instead of going for such operations,” said an elder of Masho Khel requesting anonymity.
Meanwhile, police said they had received a written complaint from PIA’s security in charge Atlas Khan, but the FIR was yet to be registered at either Badhaber or Pishtakhara police stations. Security at the airport has been increased with the deployment of extra troops while flights resumed in the morning after 11 hours.
An official of PIA said the aircraft was flying at an altitude of 700-750 feet at the time of the attack and was in a landing position. The plane was hit from the back of the airframe near Naway Kalay where its lower altitude provided an opportunity for the attackers.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 26th, 2014.