GILGIT: Security forces intensified search on Wednesday for militants of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan in the remote northern town of Chilas, headquarters of the Diamer district, after the killing of three high-profile security officials in the area the previous day. The TTP had claimed responsibility for the shooting.

The slain officials — an army colonel, a captain and a senior superintendent of police (SSP) — were investigating the June 23 killing of nine foreign tourists and one of their Pakistani guides in the area.

Victims of the mountain assault included climbers from China, Lithuania, Nepal, Slovakia, Ukraine and one person with joint US-Chinese citizenship. One Chinese climber had escaped the attack.

“We are at present engaged in a search operation against murderers and are very much hopeful of arresting them soon because 14 suspects have already been taken into custody and are being interrogated,” Ali Sher, Deputy Inspector General of Police who is heading the operation in the area, told Dawn.

Police said hideouts of Taliban were being raided.

Law-enforcement agencies, backed by Pakistan Army, have sealed all entry and exit points of the small town which has a population of 40,000. The town is visited by people of the entire district for different purposes.

The police official said that a rally was also held in the area to condemn the murder of the security officials.

People of the area were in a state of shock and an air of gloom and fear enveloped the area because of the rising number of acts of terror which were previously unknown to them.

The DIG said the entire populace of the area should not be linked with terrorism as this would bring nothing but destruction.

Mr Sher pointed towards activists of banned outfits, but did not say which organisation is behind the attack.

“They (militants) have undergone training at various places and are now totally brainwashed,” he said, adding that they could only be stopped if a political solution was found out.

He said that some possible attacks on other police officials were foiled after a tip-off.

“We arrested a man along with weapons who was trying to kill a superintendent of police in Astore and another in Gilgit. Both are now behind bars and they have confessed before courts. Their cases are being heard,” Mr Sher said.

He said hundreds of houses had already been searched to arrest militants wanted by police.

“Do you know I was also a target in some other areas, but Allah Almighty saved me, but the SSP fell victim,” he said.

The DIG spoke kindly about the people of Diamer, saying they had nothing to do with acts of terrorism, but some hidden powers wanted them in the arena.

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