2017 in review: Major terror attacks to strike Pakistan this year

Dawn.com looks at the year's major incidents of terrorism, their targets and the forces behind them.
Published December 30, 2017

As the year draws to an end, Dawn.com looks back at major incidents of terrorism that took place in 2017.

An overview of these attacks paints a grim picture of the state of security in the country. Despite the launch of two major military operations this year — country-wide Raddul Fasaad and Khyber 4, which focused primarily on Rajgal Valley — the South Asian Terrorism Portal reports at least 484 civilians and 145 security forces' personnel were killed in various incidents of terror across the country.

A total of at least 400 people were killed in the major terror attacks this year which are highlighted in each of the tabs in this report.

The follow-up to a majority of the largest attacks this year also highlights the state's knee-jerk response to terror instead of preemptive measures.

For instance, in the case of the terror attack targeting Peshawar's Agricultural Training Institute, a senior superintendent police told DawnNews that although police were told the hostel was among the more vulnerable areas in the city, it had not been adequately secured. The police's response after the attack was reported, however, was swift.

Though security is almost always 'bumped up' at the sites of the attack, the same areas continue to be targeted, as in the case of Parachinar — a town in Kurram Agency that has seen repeated terror attacks over the last 10 years.

The majority of the attacks in this report targeted security forces, not civilians. Jamaatul Ahrar this year declared open season on security forces, threatening a nationwide campaign targeting civil and armed forces, judiciary, media and political parties.

Interestingly, attacks orchestrated by the militant Islamic State (IS) had the greatest number of casualties this year, despite top civil and military officials' repeated denial of their presence in the country.

IS-claimed attacks took the lives of 160 people. Jamaatul Ahrar-claimed attacks killed 104. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al-Alami only claimed two attacks this year — both in Parachinar — and killed 92.

Another interesting takeaway from the data is that although the TTP claimed the greatest number of attacks, the combined death toll came to 79. Their attacks mostly targeted security forces and law enforcement personnel and, although high in frequency, took fewer lives than those carried out by other groups.

With respect to the pie chart above, it is pertinent to note that two of the attacks were claimed by two groups each — Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al-Alami (LeJ-A) and TTP jointly claimed responsibility for an attack on Parachinar's Sabzi Mandi; Jamaatul Ahrar and IS both claimed responsibility for an attack near the Balochistan police chief's office in Quetta.

Tragically, the largest proportion of victims of terrorism were killed in attacks on places of worship this year.

As the Director General Inter-Services Public Relations Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor addressed a press conference on Dec 28, he spoke mostly of Pakistan's response to the United States and regional tensions and security.

He did, however, speak of a "greater focus on Balochistan", confessing that the military was unable to secure the province with the speed and efficacy required. This much is evident from the number of attacks targeting police officials in Balochistan.

"When we started action in Fata, the troublemakers turned to Balochistan," he observed.

"What we do today, you'll be seeing the results of in subsequent years."

Click on the tabs below to read more about the major terror attacks in 2017.


At least four places of worship were the targets of major terror attacks this year. Two of the places targeted were Sufi shrines, one an imambargah and one church.

Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine, Sehwan

The deadliest incident of terrorism this year — claiming more than 88 lives — was a suicide attack targeting the crowded Sufi shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sindh's Sehwan Sharif on February 16. The attack was claimed by the militant Islamic State group.

Security personnel stand guard at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan following the blast. ─AFP
Security personnel stand guard at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan following the blast. ─AFP

A large number of devotees, from different faiths and from across the country, were present at the shrine as it was a Thursday — a day of spiritual significance in Pakistan's shrine culture.

The death toll rose to over 88 in the days following the attack, which left at least 343 others wounded.

CCTV footage released after the attack showed the suspected suicide bomber slipping past a security check at the shrine's Golden gate. Police believe he blew himself up after hurling a grenade that failed to explode.

The explosion took place in the area where the dhamaal (a Sufi ritual) was being performed after evening prayers.

At 3:30am the next day, the shrine's caretaker stood among the carnage and defiantly rang its bell, a daily ritual that he vowed to continue, telling AFP he will "not bow down to terrorists".

Devotees gathered at the shrine to resume the dhamaal in defiance of not only the attackers but also the police. One of the workers who looks after the shrine, Haja Shah, had tears rolling down his cheeks as he said, "This is no place for the police. This is our place."

A key suspect identified as Nadir Ali alias Murshid Jakhrani was arrested during a joint Rangers and Counter-Terrorism Department operation in Manghopir. The son of a landlord in Kashmore, Nadir Ali confessed to having past links to the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan.

The army launched the Operation Raddul Fasaad days after the Sehwan bombing, saying it was aiming at eliminating the "residual/latent threat of terrorism".

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Parachinar Imambargah, Kurram Agency

At least 23 people were killed and 73 were injured when a car bomb exploded near the women's entrance of the main Imambargah in Parachinar's Noor Market area hours before the Friday congregation on March 31.

The attack, claimed by the Jamaatul Ahrar (JA), is believed to have targeted the Shia community in the town, which has seen 10 major terror attacks since 2007, including three just this year.

"Human body parts and pools of blood were visible at and around the place of the blast. The explosion caused severe damage to shops and residential quarters in the market," a shopkeeper in the area had told Dawn.

After the blast, a group of people proceeded to the office of the political agent to hold a protest against the incident and were forcibly dispersed when paramilitary and Levies forces opened fire on the mob, killing one person and injuring seven others.

In the aftermath of the firing, thousands of people carrying coffins took out a procession from the Imambargah to the press club, placed coffins on the road and started a dharna demanding concrete security measures and the arrest of perpetrators who had been targeting the town at will for the past seven years.

Residents and elders blame the local administration and security forces for security lapses in the area.

Parachinar with a population of 100,000 is the administrative headquarters of Kurram Agency. It continues to be targeted by terrorists despite the heavy deployment of troops and checkpoints in and around the town.

Additionally, the main hospital in Parachinar lacks qualified staff and equipment, and is unable to cope with emergencies.

After the attack, the main commercial area in Parachinar was declared a red zone, causing business activities to stagnate.

Days after the attack, eight suspected JA terrorists surrendered before the army in Mohmand Agency.

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Pir Rakhel Shah shrine, Jhal Magsi

At least 21 people were killed and over 30 injured when a suicide attacker blew himself up at the entrance to the shrine of Pir Rakhel Shah in the Fatehpur area of Balochistan's Jhal Magsi district on October 5.

IS claimed responsibility for the attack, the third such incident targeting a shrine in less than a year.

It took place on a Thursday when attendance at the shrine was high. Several hundred devotees from various parts of Balochistan and Sindh had arrived at the shrine to participate in the congregation held every 15th day of the Islamic calendar.

This was the second time this shrine has been targeted ─ a 2005 attack killed more than 50 and injured more than 70 people.

Sources said the suicide attacker detonated his vest while a police constable frisked him at the entrance, killing six people on the spot, including the cop.

The blast was so powerful that it was heard several kilometres away from the shrine. The bodies of the victims were scattered in a 200-metre radius.

The attack took place hours after the military's media wing highlighted the army's efforts in combating terrorism across the country and brought up the role of "non-state actors" that the army believes are being sponsored by enemy spy agencies.

Hundreds in Dera Murad Jamali, Sibi and Jhal Magsi participated in protest rallies against the attack carrying banners and placards inscribed with slogans against terrorism and the government’s failure to protect people’s lives.

In the aftermath of the attack, Sindh police and Levies personnel launched operations against terrorists in Khuzdar and Jhal Magsi.

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Bethel Memorial Methodist Church, Quetta

At least 10 members of the Christian community in Quetta lost their lives and over 50 were injured in a terror attack claimed by IS which targeted the Sunday services at the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church on December 17.

A family being evacuated from the premises of the Bethel Memorial Church, Quetta, after a suicide attack. ─ AFP/File
A family being evacuated from the premises of the Bethel Memorial Church, Quetta, after a suicide attack. ─ AFP/File

The attack is believed to have been carried out by four attackers. A suicide bomber himself up outside the door of the church’s main hall, where 400 worshipers — including women and children — had gathered for Sunday Mass.

A second bomber was killed in a shootout with police near the main gate of the church, and officials and eyewitnesses claim two other attackers fled the scene after both suicide bombers were killed.

The fatalities occurred mainly near the front of the main hall, with those positioned near the rear of the church somewhat shielded from the impact of the blast.

"The victims were wounded by shrapnel from the suicide jacket and broken glass and wood splinters from the windowpanes and doors of the main hall. The front side of the hall was splattered with blood and the dead bodies and the injured lay scattered everywhere," said Alexander A. Kelvin, 52, who was inside the hall when the explosion took place.

This was the second time the Bethel Memorial Church has been targeted. After the previous attack, security for the church, located in the city's high-security zone, was beefed up.

Police were deployed in and outside all churches in Balochistan after this attack.

The incident was the first suicide attack that has targeted the Christian community in Quetta ─ although smaller attacks have taken place through the years.

Relatives laid their loved ones to rest amid tight security just days before Christmas.

In the aftermath, government officials were quick to offer condemnations and compensation to the victims. BNP-M chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal expressed solidarity with the Christian community by attending the Christmas service at the Bethel Memorial Church.

Days after the attack, the Frontier Corps conducted 'sanitisation operations' in Balochistan's Sibbi and Gandimgozi Kaur areas, killing four suspected terrorists. The purpose of 'santisation operations' is to clear an area of the presence of terrorists.

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Click on the tabs below to read more about the major terror attacks in 2017.


At least 484 civilians were killed in various incidents of terror across the country. Two attacks targeting civilians this year took place in Parachinar, one targeted a senator in Balochistan, and one targeted an educational institution.

Parachinar market, Kurram Agency

At least 25 people were killed and over 87 others injured in the first major terror attack of the year.

A timed improvised explosive device (IED) hidden in a vegetable crate in Parachinar's Sabzi Mandi market went off during peak business hours on January 21.

A shopkeeper described the scene after the attack: "I saw 10 charred bodies lying on the spot and heard many wounded crying."

Ashiq Hussain, who was purchasing vegetables at the market, had said: "There was no ambulance, and people had to carry the injured in cars and private pickup trucks to the hospital."

In what appeared to be a sign of growing cooperation among extremists, two banned groups ─ the LeJ-A and the Sheheryar Mehsud-led Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan ─ claimed responsibility for the attack. The TTP spokesperson described it as an act of revenge for the killing of Malik Ishaq, the LeJ chief, and others in "fake police encounters".

Seven suspects were arrested in connection with the deadly bomb blast a day after the attack.

The then interior minister Chaudhry Nisar had expressed concern over the inadequate security and directed the National Counter Terrorism Authority to investigate why appropriate security measures were not taken in Parachinar despite two threat alerts sent by the ministry on Nov 25 and Dec 14.

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Parachinar, again — twin blasts in market

Parachinar's Turi Bazaar market was the third target in the town this year, with at least 67 people killed and over 200 injured as twin blasts ripped through the densely populated area on June 23, just days before Eidul Fitr.

Smoke rises from the site of an explosion in Parachinar's Turi Market. ─ DawnNews
Smoke rises from the site of an explosion in Parachinar's Turi Market. ─ DawnNews

A first bomb went off in the market near Tal Adda, where a bus terminal is also located. A second explosion targeted rescuers and bystanders who rushed to aid those who had been hurt in the first blast. The attack took place as Eid shoppers thronged the market, minutes after an Al Quds Day rally began dispersing at some distance from the site of the blasts.

The attack was claimed by the LeJ-A.

Members of the Shia community in Parachinar protested against government inaction following the bombings, demanding a visit from Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and then interior minister Chaudhry Nisar.

Four civilians were killed as Frontier Constabulary personnel opened fire on protesters. Rumours circulated that the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory had restricted coverage of the protests — they were denied by the body.

Chaudhry Nisar, the interior minister at the time, had pointed out that such incidents occur every time the Pak-Afghan border is opened up and advocated tighter policing of the border.

Although compensation was announced for the victims of the blast, protesting tribal elders rejected it, saying they would rather be recognised as human beings.

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Agricultural Training Institute, Peshawar

Reminiscent of previous attacks on Army Public School and Charsadda's Bacha Khan University, four burqa-clad gunmen in possession of suicide vests stormed the hostel of Peshawar's Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) on December 1.

A police commando escorts rescued ATI staff members to safety after the attack on the hostel in Peshawar.─AFP/File
A police commando escorts rescued ATI staff members to safety after the attack on the hostel in Peshawar.─AFP/File

At least nine people were killed and 37 injured in the TTP-claimed carnage that took place on 12th Rabi-ul-Awal. Only a small number of students were present at the hostel as it was a holiday.

A university student who witnessed the attack said: "Two terrorists entered and fired, and the students began running. Some were injured; others jumped out of the windows of the hostel."

"I was asleep. When we heard the gunshots, we quickly shut our room's door and made phone calls to find out what was happening. We were told that the people outside are terrorists and that we should keep our room's door shut," said Saleh, another student who was in the hostel at the time of the attack.

He added: "The terrorists shot at everyone who was roaming around and they were breaking doors down to attack students. Thankfully security personnel reached the hostel before those men came to our room — that is why we are alive."

Although security had been beefed up in the provincial capital on the occasion, the ATI ─ located in the city's University Town area ─ was reported to have been a vulnerable installation.

The quick response of police and security forces averted what could have been a greater tragedy, as one of the hostels was secured before the attackers reached it, and people in and around the ATI were speedily evacuated.

Security forces hunted down and neutralised the terrorists in an operation launched soon after the attack was reported and then began clearing the university's premises.

Police said the terrorists had contacted handlers in Afghanistan as the attack was underway. The attackers had also broadcast the siege live to their handlers via a smartphone attached to the body of an assailant.

Investigators probing the incident said that the planners of the attack had apparently tricked the suicide bombers into believing that the facility was an intelligence agency's office in order to keep them motivated.

Following the attack, at least 15 suspects were arrested during operations carried out by law enforcement agencies.

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Senate deputy chairman attacked, Mastung

A suicide attack targeting the convoy of Senate Deputy Chairman Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri in Mastung, Balochistan, on May 12 left at least 27 people dead and 40 others injured.

Maulana Haideri, belonging to JUI-F, suffered minor injuries in the IS-claimed attack.

The deceased included several JUI-F volunteers, a naib emir of the JUI-F Quetta chapter, a Senate official, and an Anti-Terrorism Force official.

The suicide bomber rammed his motorcycle into the vehicle in which the Maulana was travelling along the Quetta-Karachi National Highway.

A large number of vehicles and motorcycles, including a police car, were destroyed in the blast that rocked the entire town of Mastung, causing panic among the residents. Survivors, several covered in blood, picked up body parts that lay scattered on the road among vehicles twisted by the blast.

Sardar Noor Ahmed Bangulzai recounted the blast: "The place was engulfed by thick smoke and nothing was visible. When atmosphere cleared, I saw bodies lying here and there, even at the distance of 100 feet from the blast site... The injured were crying and asking for help."

Leaders, activists and JUI-F supporters held protests against the attack in Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and the tribal areas.

Haideri criticised the federal government for its inaction following the attack, saying that "no information has been shared regarding the investigation into the Mastung blast".

Security forces conducted operations in Mastung targeting 'IS facilitators', in which at least 12 "hardcore terrorists, including two suicide bombers" and a number of 'key commanders' were killed.

Consistent with the government policy of not acknowledging IS presence in the country, the ISPR downplayed reports that Daesh was targeted in the operation, saying it was against 10-15 terrorists of the banned LeJ-A who had been hiding there.

The operations were also spurred by intelligence reports that two Chinese citizens kidnapped from Quetta on May 24 were being held by IS in the area.

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Click on the tabs below to read more about the major terror attacks in 2017.


This year saw a number of terror attacks targeting security forces, particularly police personnel, across the country.

The largest attacks took place in Lahore on Ferozepur Road and Mall Road, while a number of smaller attacks ─ higher in frequency and with high-profile targets ─ took place in Balochistan, KP and Karachi.

Mall Road, Lahore

A suicide attack targeting police officials on Lahore's Mall Road on Feb 13 was the first of three major terror attacks to hit the provincial capital this year — all of which targeted law enforcers, army and security personnel.

At least 13 people, including six police officers, were killed and 85 others injured when the suicide bomber struck a protest of around 400 chemists and pharmaceutical manufacturers in front of the Punjab Assembly.

There was a significant presence of law enforcers in the area, with senior police officials seen mediating with protesters to clear the area in front of the Punjab Assembly. SSP Operations Zahid Gondal of Punjab Police and DIG Traffic Lahore Capt (retd) Ahmad Mobin were among those killed in the attack.

The Jamaatul Ahrar claimed responsibility for the attack.

Footage of the attack showed two men walking towards the blast site, according to Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah.

He said that the DIG Traffic and SSP Operations were posted on one side of Mall Road, whereas the protesters were on the other side, and that the attackers "moved towards them before the bomber blew himself up".

Following the attack, Punjab’s law enforcement agencies launched a province-wide crackdown on banned militant organisations and a probe into the incident. Over 124 suspects were taken into custody for interrogation.

The Punjab government, which appeared to have resisted the deployment of the Rangers for much of 2016, finally called in the paramilitary force to 'help combat terrorism'.

The Rangers were given police powers to conduct intelligence-based operations against terrorists, wherever required, with full authority.

Despite the operations, 11 days after the attack another blast rocked Lahore's DHA area. However, authorities claimed it was an 'accident' caused by a cylinder explosion. At least 10 people were killed in the blast.

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Ferozepur Road, Lahore

A suicide bomber targeted policemen providing security to the Lahore Development Authority which was clearing Lahore's Ferozepur Road of encroachments on July 24. At least 26 people, including nine policemen, were killed while 58 others were injured as a motorcycle bomb exploded.

Rescue workers move the body of a victim of a suicide attack on Lahore's Ferozepur Road. ─ AFP
Rescue workers move the body of a victim of a suicide attack on Lahore's Ferozepur Road. ─ AFP

The blast occurred at an old vegetable market in the Kot Lakhpat neighbourhood ─ a busy locality near Arfa Karim IT Tower and the office of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.

The TTP claimed responsibility for the attack. It was the first attack carried out by the Taliban Special Group, a new militant network and offshoot of the TTP comprising highly-trained suicide attackers.

After the attack, the army chief had said: "We are breaking connectivity between terrorist masterminds and their facilitators."

A few days later, another explosion took place on Lahore's Outfall Road in which two people were killed and 48 others injured.

A joint investigation team was set up to probe the blast, and the CTD claimed to have gunned down four suspected TTP terrorists in Lahore.

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Census team, Lahore

A suicide bomber targeted a census team in Lahore's Bedian Road area on April 5, killing four army men, an off-duty Pakistan Air Force airman and a civilian. At least 19 others were injured in the attack.

The attacker detonated his explosives next to a van carrying security personnel who were going to join a census team. The explosion occurred at around 7:50am when the van reached the Mananwala Chowk. The TTP claimed responsibility for the attack.

Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah had said there had been a repeated threat alert in Lahore for 10 days prior to the bombing.

COAS Bajwa asserted that despite the attack, "the census will be completed at any cost."

A review of security measures for census teams was ordered by the Punjab police chief after the attack.

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Senior police officers targeted


The most prominent attacks ─ both bomb blasts and shootings ─ on senior police officials took place in Balochistan.

District Police Officer (DPO) Killa Abdullah Sajid Mohmand and his guard lost their lives in a TTP-claimed blast near Boghra Road in Balochistan's Chaman area on July 10.

DIG Police Telecommunication Hamid Shakeel Sabir and two other police officials were killed in a TTP-claimed suicide bombing in Quetta's Chaman Housing Society on November 10.

Seven police were among 14 people killed in a suicide blast near the Balochistan police chief's office on Quetta's Gulistan Road on June 23. At least 20 other people were injured in the attack claimed by both the Jamaatul Ahrar and IS.

At least eight people, including seven policemen, were killed and 24 others injured in an explosion targeting a truck carrying police officials in the Sariab Mill area of Quetta on October 18. The attack was claimed by the TTP.

On July 13, SP Mubarak Shah and three other policemen were gunned down in Quetta's Killi Deba area in an attack claimed by the Jamaatul Ahrar, and on Nov 15, SP Muhammad Ilyas and three members of his family were gunned down in Quetta's Nawan Killi area.

Against the backdrop of the renewed wave of targeted attacks against senior police officers in Balochistan, Gen Bajwa said the "terrorists in desperation" were targeting law enforcement agencies and soft targets since there had been a phenomenal reduction in targeted killings on sectarian grounds in the province.

In addition to major attacks, seven policemen were kidnapped in Balochistan's Awaran area on June 29 ─ Eid day ─ but later released when security forces blocked all entry and exit points of the area.

A number of operations were conducted in different parts of the province, including Quetta and Zhob, and probe teams were set up to investigate different attacks.

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The same day that a blast took place outside the IGP Balochistan's office in Quetta, four policemen were gunned down in Karachi's SITE area as they sat down for Iftar at a roadside hotel.

The same murder weapon was used to gun down DSP Traffic Hanif Khan and constable Sultan Ishtiaq, in Azizabad on Aug 11.

Additionally, a police razakar, a retired army officer and three policemen were gunned down in Karachi in various incidents.

Most of the attacks were carried out by the newly surfaced militant group, the Ansar-ul-Sharia Pakistan (ASP), an Al Qaeda-inspired group which comprised highly educated operatives. The story of the ASP appears to share similarities with that of the Saad Aziz-led, IS-inspired group which orchestrated the 2015 Safoora Goth massacre and the murder of activist and T2F founder Sabeen Mahmud.

The ASP also claimed responsibility for an attack on MQM leader Khawaja Izharul Hassan on Eidul Fitr in which one police officer and a civilian lost their lives.

Security agencies and police cracked down on the group. Reports circulated in September that top members of the ASP had been arrested, and about a month later, eight ASP militants were killed in an 'encounter' jointly carried out by the Rangers and the CTD in the Raees Goth area in Karachi's Baldia Town.

The rise of the ASP sparked concern and fear about the origins and scale of radicalisation occurring in Pakistani universities.

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Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Attacks targeting police officials in KP were significantly lower compared to the other provinces. On Nov 25, Additional Inspector General Muhammad Ashraf Noor was killed when a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden motorcycle into his vehicle near Zarghoni Masjid in Peshawar's Hayatabad area. The Lashkar-i-Islam claimed the attack.

A Dawn bureau report revealed that terrorists have killed 29 KP police officers over the last decade.

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Army, FC targeted

At least eight security officials were among 15 killed in a suicide blast targeting a military truck near Quetta's Pishin bus stop on Aug 12, two days before Independence Day. At least 32 others were wounded in the attack. Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti said the terrorists did not want people to celebrate Aug 14.

A high-level investigation team, comprising three senior police officers, was formed to probe the deadly suicide bombing.

Security officers and volunteers collect evidence at the site of an attack targeting an FC convoy in Peshawar. ─ AP
Security officers and volunteers collect evidence at the site of an attack targeting an FC convoy in Peshawar. ─ AP

A landmine blast in Balochistan's Sibbi district killed two FC men and injured three others on a routine sweep of the area on Nov 29.

A Frontier Corps convoy was targeted by a suicide blast on Quetta's Sariab Road area on Nov 25. Five people were killed and 27 others, including two FC men, were injured in the attack.

At least one FC man was killed in a suicide blast in Balochistan's Chaman area near the Pak-Afghan on July 17. The same day, two FC personnel were killed in Peshawar's Hayatabad area when a suicide bomber rammed his motorcycle into an FC vehicle on patrol. Nine people, including two security personnel, were injured in the explosion.