Pakistan gun battle leaves 35 dead
Taliban insurgents launched co-ordinated attacks on five paramilitary checkpoints in northwestern Pakistan Friday, leaving at least 11 soldiers and 24 militants dead, officials said.
“At least 11 of our men have been martyred and 12 others wounded,” Amjad Ali Khan, the administrator of lawless Mohmand tribal district, told reporters at a press conference in the area’s main town, Ghalanai.
Security officials earlier said at least three soldiers were killed in the attacks.
Khan said that at least 24 militants were killed when paramilitary soldiers “befittingly repulsed” the attack at five checkpoints near the border with Afghanistan.
“The army has sent helicopter gunships and bombed suspected hide outs of Taliban,” Khan said.
Earlier a senior security official told AFP: “About 150 Taliban militants attacked five Frontier Corps checkposts in Baidnami village near the border with Afghanistan.
Security forces had cordoned off the area and were searching for the fleeing militants, he said, while reinforcements were sent in “to beef up the checkpoints”.
Local administration officials in Ghalanai and the paramilitary force confirmed the attack and casualties.
In a telephone call to AFP Taliban spokesman for Mohmand district Sajjad Mohmand claimed two paramilitary soldiers had been captured but security officials rejected the claim, saying no one was missing.
“We have killed 12 soldiers and occupied a checkpost,” Mohmand said.
Mohmand district has seen much of the violence linked to Taliban militants in northwestern Pakistan. On December 6, twin suicide bombings killed 43 people in Ghalanai, about 175 kilometres (110 miles) northwest of Islamabad.
Meanwhile, a bomb fitted with a timer exploded in a private boys’ primary school in Peshawar’s Pelosi neighbourhood, wounding four children, senior police official Shafiullah Khan told AFP.
“Four children were wounded in the bomb blast at a primary school,” Khan said, adding that the children were in the playground during break time when the bomb exploded indoors.
Peshawar is the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and has seen several bombings and suicide attacks blamed on Taliban militants.
Around 4,000 people have died in suicide and bomb attacks across Pakistan since government forces raided an extremist mosque in Islamabad in 2007. The attacks have been blamed on networks linked to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
Mohmand is one of seven Pakistani tribal districts. The United States considers Pakistan’s tribal belt the global headquarters of Al-Qaeda and the most dangerous place on Earth.
US officials are putting pressure on Pakistan to launch a major ground offensive in the tribal region of North Waziristan, considered a fortress for Taliban groups fighting US-led troops in Afghanistan.
Pakistan vehemently denies accusations that it is not doing enough to eradicate the Taliban in the northwest, saying 2,421 troops have been killed in fighting Islamist militants from 2002 until April this year.
Pakistan supported the Taliban regime in Afghanistan from 1996-2001, but became a US ally after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington by Al-Qaeda.