All terrorists killed, 2 SSG commandos martyred as operation at Bannu CTD centre concludes: Khawaja Asif
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on Tuesday confirmed that “all the terrorists” of the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) who had taken hostages at a Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) centre in Bannu were killed in an operation conducted by the Pakistan Army.
Speaking on the floor of the National Assembly, Asif said that 33 terrorists were under arrest at the CTD compound and one of them had managed to snatch a gun from an employee after hitting him in the head with a brick.
The defence minister said that a unit of the army’s Special Service Group (SSG) carried out the operation, in which 10-15 of its commandos were injured while two were martyred.
“This operation was initiated on December 20 at 12:30pm by the Special Service Group and all terrorists were killed,” Asif said, adding that the entire CTD compound was cleared by 2:30pm.
The defence minister criticised PTI Chairman Imran Khan and called the incident a “total collapse” of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government.
“The unfortunate aspect of this is that terrorism is again making strides in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan,” he said. [Terrorism] incidents have taken places in other provinces as well but there is clear evidence that terrorists from across the border or locally are rising again [in KP and Balochistan].
“These 33 were under arrest regarding this situation and they had a link with multiple groups. The provincial government completely failed in its responsibility regarding the CTD [compound takeover.”
Asif credited the army for the operation, adding that the provincial government had “no role” in it. “This is a failure of the provincial government there and the failure of nine years.”
“It is a total collapse of the KP government,” he said.
Prior to the defence minister’s confirmation of the operation’s conclusion, a senior police officer had confirmed to Dawn.com on the condition of anonymity that the operation had concluded.
Meanwhile, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), in a brief statement, said that details of the operation will be shared soon.
DG ISPR provides details
Later in the day while speaking to Geo News, ISPR Director General Maj-Gen Ahmed Sharif provided details of the operation and the background of the incident.
He said that 33 terrorists were under investigation in the CTD compound in Bannu on December 18.
“One of them snatched the weapon from a CTD officer and got his allies freed. They took hold of the weapons from the armoury and started firing, martyring a CTD officer while one was injured who later passed away.”
He said one officer of the security forces present inside the complex was made hostage and other security personnel reached the site and surrounded the complex as soon as they heard the sounds of firing.
Gen Sharif said two terrorists were killed in the ensuing exchange of fire while three who wanted to escape were arrested and two security personnel were injured as well.
“Our forces surrounded the entire area and failed any attempt by the terrorists to escape. In the last 48 hours, there was a complete attempt for an unconditional surrender from the terrorists who were demanding safe passage to go to Afghanistan.”
He said this demand was “completely rejected” and shut down. Gen Sharif added that because the terrorists were not ready to surrender their weapons, “forces started an operation on the CTD complex today during which there was heavy exchange of fire and rooms were cleared out.”
The DG ISPR said the security personnel fought bravely and 25 terrorists were killed in the clash, three were arrested and seven surrendered.
He said three security officers were martyred in the operation while 10 were injured. “This operation is proof of the Pakistan Army’s bravery and mission against terrorism,” Gen Sharif added.
Background to event
Late Sunday, the militants held in the CTD centre took control of the building and took a number of law enforcers hostage. They had demanded safe passage to Afghanistan.
Earlier today, footage aired on TV showed plumes of smoke rising in the air from the CTD compound as the operation was underway. Reuters reported locals as saying they heard explosions coming from the vicinity of the centre.
The development comes amid a spate of terrorist attacks in Pakistan. Four policemen were martyred when terrorists attacked a police station in Lakki Marwat — a district of Bannu division — on Sunday.
On Monday, an Intelligence Bureau sub-inspector was gunned down in Peshawar, while a suicide attack in North Waziristan claimed the lives of a soldier and two civilians. In Balochistan, back-to-back bombings in Khuzdar injured 20 yesterday.
TTP claims responsibility
The attack on the compound has been claimed by the TTP as the banned outfit confirmed in a statement released on Monday that its members had taken several CTD and security personnel hostages.
The group’s spokesperson said that in an earlier video statement, the hostage takers had demanded a safe exit but mistakenly mentioned Afghanistan since they were not aware of ground realities.
The militants inside the seized CTD centre had also released several videos on Monday, asking the people of Bannu, especially the ulema, to come forward and resolve the standoff between the militants and law enforcers through dialogue.
In a video clip, a detainee declared himself ‘innocent’ and said along with the Taliban militants and officials taken hostage by the militants, several innocents were also present inside the compound.
In the video, he said that the elders and the ulema of Bannu should intervene to avoid bloodshed and settle the standstill in a peaceful manner. “The people and army are ours and the Taliban wanted to go outside [the compound] to kill people, but we stopped them,” he added.
In another video clip, several armed militants could be seen roaming and taking positions inside the compound.
In a video released from CTD centre in Bannu, one of the individuals in the video has been identified as Commander Zarrar, who had been under custody. Zarrar had merged his group with TTP and it was still unclear what he was doing in the CTD centre even though he was in custody since January 2022.