ISLAMABAD: Militants have shot dead three policemen who went missing during an overnight search in Malakand district, police said on Wednesday.

The incident took place in the mountainous town of Ailam, where Taliban militants are active.

“Last night militants fired at a police patrol vehicle, followed by a search operation during which four policemen went missing,” senior police official Asif Iqbal told AFP.

Police found the bullet-riddled bodies of three officers on Wednesday morning, he added. A police station chief was wounded.

On December 8, unidentified gunmen shot dead two policemen who were on their way to protect a polio vaccination team in the neighbouring town of Buner. The area where the latest killings took place is close to the Swat Valley.

Read further: Two policemen on polio duty shot dead

The outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had claimed responsibility for the attack.

The army in 2009 sent 30,000 troops to Swat Valley to battle Taliban fighters controlled by Maulana Fazlullah, who in 2007 took control of the valley and waged a campaign of violence including beheadings and attacks on girls' schools.

More on this: Swat: an unquiet calm

In May 2009, Pakistan army carried out an operation against the Taliban militants which wrested control of the valley from their grasp, displacing around 1.7 million people in the process. But the remaining Taliban changed tactics and incidents of targeted killing of anti-Taliban figures and other subversive activities continued, whipping up fear among the local residents, especially those who supported the army in the operation.

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