SWAT/ISLAMABAD/MIRANSHAH - Militants killed two senior officers of Pakistan Army Sunday morning in Upper Dir region, in what could be seen as major blow to government’s ongoing efforts to end the insurgency in the country.
Roadside bomb attacks and a Taliban ambush on Sunday killed four other security personnel in troubled north-western areas.
“Maj-Gen Sanaullah Khan and Lt-Col Touseef embraced Shahadat (martyrdom) this morning. They were returning after visiting troop posts on Pak-Afghan Border,” the military said in a statement.
The two high-ranking officers were killed in this tribal area close to the Afghan border when their vehicle hit a powerful landmine which also killed another soldier and injured two others. “Sepoy Imran also embraced Shahadat, two soldiers injured in the blast have been evacuated,” the military statement said.
The proscribed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the major attack saying they have not yet signed any truce with the government. A spokesman for the organisation told different media organisation on phone that they were continuously being targeted by the army and security agencies in different parts of the country and hence were free to conduct such attacks.
There was no immediate reaction from the military leadership but Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif phoned Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and conveyed to him his heartfelt condolences over the martyrdom of senior army officers.
The Prime Minister said that Pakistan Army had made countless sacrifices for the defence of the nation and in fighting the scourge of terrorism. He said such incidents could not deter the morale of armed forces, which would continue to serve the nation and the country with vigour. The Prime Minister also prayed that may Allah Almighty grant fortitude to the bereaved families to bear the loss.
Condemning the incident, Nawaz said the whole nation stood by their valiant soldiers. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan also telephoned General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and expressed grief over the death of the three military officials. According to a private TV channel, Nisar expressed solidarity with the army and said that the government valued the sacrifices rendered by the armed forces.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government had announced on Saturday that withdrawal of troops from Malakand division would begin next month and the civil administration would take over control of the area. The announcement came at a time when the federal government is preparing to launch peace talks with the banned TTP in the light of decisions of an all-party conference. More than 40,000 people have died in bomb and suicide attacks by Taliban and al-Qaeda led militants who oppose Islamabad’s US alliance.
TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said that the bomb attack was carried out by its Swat chapter. Talking to senior journalist Saleem Safi from an undisclosed location, he said that the militant outfit had called a meeting of its Shura (central decision making body) to consider Islamabad’s talks offer. But he said the government had not made any formal contact with the militants so far.
The TTP spokesman set troop pullout from insurgency stricken areas and the release of jailed insurgents for holding negotiations. He alleged that following talks in the past, the government betrayed the militants and they were therefore wary of entering into any agreement with the incumbent setup this time around.
The Taliban said last year that they would only consider talks if the government imposed strict Islamic law and went to war with old enemy India. But Sharif’s government, which came to power this year, has made improving ties with neighbouring India a priority. Whatever the Taliban demand, the killing of a major general and other officers will make it more difficult for the government to pursue talks with the militants.
Separately, two roadside bomb attacks in Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan tribal district bordering Afghanistan, killed two soldiers on Sunday and wounded four others, security officials said.
Militants targeted a security forces vehicle through remote controlled bomb at Mirali Road when it was heading towards the neighbouring district of Bannu. The blast damaged the vehicle and killed two security personnel and wounded a third soldier. The blast occurred at a time when the entire NWA was under curfew.
In Bannu also, Taliban militants ambushed a convoy of tribal police early Sunday, killing two of them and wounding four others, the officials said. Two blasts also occurred in Jamrud tehsil of Khyber Agency, however, no loss of life was reported. According to Khasadar force the explosions took place near the residences of a Nato containers contractor in Ghaziza area and one NGO personnel in Ghundi area. The houses were damaged partially.
Two persons including a woman got injuries in a blast at a graveyard in Dera Ismail Khan. According to police, the blast occurred near Hafiz Khair Muhammad graveyard. The injured were shifted to a nearby hospital while police cordoned off the area and launched a search operation.
Meanwhile, President Mamnoon Hussain expressed profound grief and sorrow over the martyrdom of General Officer Commanding Malakand Division Major General Sanaullah, Lt Col Tauseef and L/Nk Imran in an imrovised explosive device blast in Upper Dir.
The President, in his condolence message, paid tribute to the senior officers for their services for the defence of motherland and prayed for their eternal peace. He also expressed sympathies with the bereaved families.