LAHORE: A day after a deadly suicide bombing in Peshawar claimed over 100 lives, a police station in Mianwali came under a gun attack by a group of heavily armed militants belonging to banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on Tuesday night.
However, police claimed late at night the attack had been repulsed. The attack is significant in that terrorists — who had so far targeted police stations and check posts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and areas bordering Afghanistan — have set their sights on a police station in Punjab for the first time since the resurgence of terrorism in the country.
Punjab Inspector General of Police Dr Usman Anwar confirmed to Dawn in the early hours of Wednesday that armed attackers belonging to the banned militant organisation, TTP, claimed the attack on the police station.
He said police teams from three regions — Mianwali, Dera Ghazi Khan and Sargodha — besides Lahore police and Punjab CTD had reached Mianwali for a ‘grand operation’ against the TTP.
According to social media reports, the attack started at around 9pm as militants unleashed heavy fire at Makkarwal police station using automatic weapons. This resulted in a heavy exchange of fire as police retaliated leading to a gun battle that lasted two hours.
However, there were no reports of any injuries to police personnel during the attack, the Punjab IG confirmed, as a senior Mianwali police official said personnel posted at the police station reacted swiftly, averting the attack.
Makarwal in the Isakhel tehsil, is a mostly hilly area known for coal mines, the official added.
The senior official said smugglers bringing contraband, arms and narcotics on foot from Darra Adam Khel in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa frequently use the area and the terrain also allows militants and terrorists to operate freely.
The Punjab IG said that highly-trained personnel of the police’s Counter Terrorism Department and Elite Force also joined the operation. He said a high alert has been issued in the entire Mianwali region in the wake of the attack.
He said a search operation has been launched after police teams chased the attackers who apparently disappeared taking advantage of the complex and inaccessible terrain.
“We are also discussing the options to launch a massive search [operation] in Mianwali district to trace the terrorists’ hideouts,” Dr Anwar said.
He said a committee of senior police officers, including Additional IG (training) Zulfiqar Hameed, Additional IG Special Branch Punjab Sultan Chaudhry, Operations DIG Waqas Nazeer and Information Technology DIG Ahsan Younis.
Dr Anwar said the team would remain in contact with Mianwali RPO Shariq Kamal to prepare a new strategy to launch the search operation in hilly areas of the district. The IG said that a grand search operation and crackdown would be launched soon.
“I am also reaching there in the morning today,” he said while teams with senior officers were well prepared for the crackdown.
Published in Dawn, February 1st, 2023