A deputy superintendent of police (DSP) and three constables were martyred when an improvised explosive device (IED) went off on the Pirwala Road in Lakki Marwat on Thursday, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police said.
According to the police, the blast occurred as the personnel were en route to the Saddar police station, where policemen were fending off an attack under way.
"The DSP, along with a heavy contingent, left for the police station after he received information regarding a terrorist attack there.
"On the way, near the Pirwala turn, an IED blast occurred in which DSP Iqbal Momand and constables Ali Marjan, Waqar and Karamatullah were martyred," it added.
Lakki Marwat police spokesperson Shahid Hameed told Dawn.com that terrorists opened fire at the Saddar police station in the early hours today. Resultantly, an exchange of fire took place between the police and the terrorists.
During the gunfight, six policemen were injured, he said. The wounded men, identified as Head Constable Farooq Shah and constables Amanatullah, Asghar, Sardar Ali and Arif have been moved to the Lakki City Hospital.
A police statement also revealed that the militants were equipped with advanced and heavy weaponry. “The police were on alert and the attackers had to flee when the police returned fire."
The terrorists fled while taking advantage of the darkness, it added.
Later, funerals of the slain policemen were offered at the Police Line, which was attended by senior police officers.
The outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed the attack in a statement.
Talking to Dawn.com, former chief of the National Counter Terrorism Authority, Ihsan Ghani, said that the police are a "soft target" for armed groups.
Ghani, who has also served as chief of the KP police, said that police routinely come under attack as they are on the streets and perform duties anywhere. “We are now alone in the war on terrorism,” he added.
Condemning the incident, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that the sacrifices of police officers in the war against terrorism were unforgettable and prayed for the speedy recovery of the injured persons.
In a statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office, PM Shehbaz paid homage to the martyred DSP and policemen in a statement issued by the prime minister's office.
"Police are performing magnificent duties against the terrorist as the first line of defence. Elimination of terrorism is a must for Pakistan's survival and development," PM Shehbaz said.
The prime minister extended condolences to the bereaved families. He also said that the police at Saddar station bravely countered the terrorist attack.
Surge in terrorism
The latest attack comes as terrorism in Pakistan has been rearing its head again. Over the past few months, the law and order situation in the country — especially in KP and Balochistan has worsened — with terrorist groups executing attacks with near impunity across the country.
Since the talks with the TTP broke down in November, the militant group has intensified its attacks, particularly targeting the police in KP and areas bordering Afghanistan. Insurgents in Balochistan have also stepped up their violent activities and formalised a nexus with the outlawed TTP.
In Jan, a powerful suicide blast in a mosque in Peshawar Police Lines killed 84 people and injured many others.
According to statistics released by the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies, an Islamabad-based think-tank, January 2023 remained one of the deadliest months since July 2018, as 134 people lost their lives — a 139 per cent spike — and 254 received injuries in at least 44 militant attacks across the country.