KHAR: Dozens of militants coming from Afghanistan took scores of villagers hostage in Pakistan’s northwest Thursday, sparking fighting that killed at least 10 people, Pakistani officials said.
The militants who staged the cross-border attack appeared to be targeting members of an anti-Taliban militia in Katkot village near Pakistan’s Bajaur tribal area, said Tariq Khan, a local government official.
Pakistan has railed against Afghan and Nato forces for not doing enough to stop Afghanistan-based militants from launching cross-border attacks, but has received little sympathy. The US and Afghan governments, on the other hand, have long complained that Pakistan allows sanctuary to militants fighting in Afghanistan.
The militants who attacked Thursday came from Afghanistan’s Kunar province and took hundreds of villagers hostage, including anti-Taliban militiamen, said Khan.
The Pakistani army surrounded the village and killed eight militants, prompting the insurgents to retaliate by shooting to death two militiamen, he added.
Soldiers have retrieved scores of villagers, but dozens more are still held by the militants or trapped in their homes by the fighting, said Khan and two security officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
The army called in gunship helicopters for support but have not used them yet for fear of civilian casualties, said Khan.
The information could not be independently verified because the area is largely off-limits to reporters.
The Pakistani military launched a massive offensive against the Taliban in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Swat Valley in 2009, and many militants were captured and imprisoned.
The leader of the Taliban in Swat, Maulana Fazlullah, escaped and is believed to be based in eastern Afghanistan, where he has been sending fighters back across the border to attack northwest Pakistan.
The Pakistani Taliban have killed thousands of soldiers, police and civilians over the past few years, declaring war on the government to get it to break ties with the United States and establish Islamic law throughout the country.