MIRAMSHAH / QUETTA: Ten armed forces personnel were martyred by militants, six of them in a cross-border attack on Saturday in North Waziristan district and four others in an assault in Kech district of Balochistan on Friday, the military said.

The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said the martyred personnel included an officer.

According to Reuters, Saturday’s ambush was claimed by the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, also known as the Pakistani Taliban, which is separate from the insurgent movement across the border in Afghanistan. No group claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack.

In a statement, the ISPR’s director general, Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, said: “Shahadat (martyrdom) of six soldiers on Pak-Afghan border and four in Balochistan is the sacrifice Pakistan (is) making for peace in the region. While security of tribal areas has been improved with efforts now focused to solidify border, inimical forces are attempting to destabilise Balochistan.”

Officials said that in the incident in North Waziristan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, militants in Afghanistan’s Paktika province opened fire on army personnel in Shawal Tehsil at about 9am.

At the time of the attack, the Pakistani troops were patrolling the area near the Badakhshan Mana post. Six men who were martyred in the attack were Havaldar Khalid and Sepoys Naveed, Bachal, Ali Raza, Mohammad Babar and Ehsan.

Pakistani Taliban claim responsibility for cross-border assault in North Waziristan

The sources said the troops who came under attack returned fire but casualties on the other side of the Pak-Afghan border could not be ascertained.

Locals said the border near the scene of the attack has been fenced off completely.

According to them, this was the first major attack from across the border since May.

The Friday incident happened in the Kech district of Makran division when some members of the Frontier Corps came under attack during a search operation in the mountainous area of Tjaban, the ISPR said.

In a statement, the public relations wing of the military said: “Troops of Frontier Corps fired upon by terrorists during combing/sensitisation operation between Hoshab and Turbat.”

The officer who embraced martyrdom in the attack was Captain Aaqib Javed. Also martyred in the assault were Sepoys Nadir, Atif Altaf and Hafeezullah.

The sources said there were reports of death of five militants in a military operation that was launched after the attack.

The two attacks came days after a meeting between US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Imran Khan which focused on Pakistan’s role in helping to broker a political settlement to end the nearly 18-year-old war in Afghanistan.

Pakistani forces have conducted a series of operations against militant groups in the tribal districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa over the years. While officials say the area has largely been pacified, small attacks continue to take place.

Balochistan is an important part of transport and energy projects that form part of China’s Belt and Road initiative, which has brought $57 billion of investment to Pakistan.

Balochistan is rife with ethnic, sectarian and separatist violence, and a number of militant groups, including the banned Balochistan Liberation Army, operate in the province.

Soldiers’ bravery hailed

The prime minister as well as the army chief paid tribute to the martyred soldiers and praised the bravery of the armed forces.

In a tweet, Prime Minister Imran Khan said: “I salute our armed forces personnel, who continue to lay down their lives (while) fighting terrorists to keep the nation safe.”

He expressed condolences to the families of the brave soldiers who laid down their lives in the two attacks.

For his part, Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa said: “Salute to martyrs and families; we shall ensure defence and security of motherland at the cost of our sweat and blood.”

He described the militant attacks as “dying efforts of frustrated inimical forces while Pakistan moves from stability to enduring peace”.

“It’s time for the world to facilitate regional peace,” added the army chief.

Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan Alyani too condemned the attacks and praised the bravery of the security personnel.

Meanwhile, Capt Aqib Javed, who embraced martyrdom in the attack in Balochistan, was laid to rest with full military honours in his native village about 40km from Sargodha on Saturday.

He had joined the army in 2015 and was promoted to the rank of captain only last year.

Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2019