MIRAMSHAH: Three army officers and a soldier were martyred and four others injured when a roadside improvised explosive device struck their vehicle near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in North Waziristan tribal district on Friday.

The officers and soldiers of the Quick Response Force were on routine patrol in the Doga Macha Madakhel area of Dattakhel tehsil at around 5.30pm when the IED went off, badly damaging the vehicle of the security forces, official sources said.

According to a statement of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), a lieutenant colonel, a major, a captain and a lance havaldar were martyred, while four other personnel suffered injuries.

The martyrs were identified as Lt Col Rashid Kareem Baig, resident of Karimabad, Hunza, Major Moeez Maqsood from Karachi, Capt Arifullah from Lakki Marwat and Lance Havaldar Zaheer Ahmad from Chakwal. The injured sepoys were identified as Amjad, Aslam, Arif and Sakhawat.

The bodies and the injured were shifted to a military hospital in the area. The security forces cordoned off the area and launched a search operation to trace the attackers. Curfew was also imposed in the area.

Blast occurs in the area where a clash between protesters and security forces took place on May 26

The ISPR statement said that this was the same area where security forces had conducted search operations and arrested a few facilitators (of terrorists).

During the last one month, 10 personnel of security forces have been martyred and 35 injured, including Friday’s casualties, in the area.

The security forces frequently come under attack in the area, which is said to be sensitive due to increasing incidents of terrorist attacks.

To protest the detention of the two suspected facilitators of terrorists, the residents had staged a sit-in in the Doga Macha Madakhel village.

On May 26, two parliamentarians accompanied by activists of the Pakhtun Tahafuz Movement and residents of Doga Macha Madakhel village marched towards the Kharqamar check post, which resulted in a clash with the security forces and death of a few protesters. The protesters damaged a security barrier and raised anti-state slogans, according to an official report.

According to an official, an army convoy was ambushed in the same area on April 29, which had resulted in the martyrdom of three soldiers and injuries to four others.

On May 1, multiple attacks were launched on fencing teams in the Alwara area which again resulted in the martyrdom of four soldiers and injuries to 17 others.

That was followed by another attack on May 5 in Doga Macha Madakhel area in which one soldier was martyred while three others were injured.

To clear the area of terrorists and make it safe, the security forces had launched an operation on May 24 during which two suspects were detained and a soldier was wounded.

Condemning Friday’s attack, Prime Minister Imran Khan said in a tweet, “I salute the sacrifices & bravery of our soldiers in keeping us safe. The whole nation stands behind them. Deeply saddened to learn of the shahadat of 3 officers &1 soldier from a terrorist-planted IED blast in Kharkamar, N.Waziristan. My condolences to the families of the Shuhada & prayers for recovery of the injured.”

Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2019