Four soldiers were martyred and 12 terrorists killed in an operation to repulse militants from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Chitral district on Wednesday, according to the military’s media wing.
The Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) press release said that a “large group of terrorists equipped with latest weapons” attacked two military posts located close to the Afghanistan border in Chitral district’s general area of Kalash.
“Terrorists’ movement and concentration in Gawardesh, Pitigal, Barg-i-Matal and Batash areas of Nuristan and Kunar provinces of Afghanistan had already been picked up and were timely shared with Interim Afghan Government.
“Owing to heightened threat environment, own posts were already on high alert. The valiant soldiers fought bravely and repulsed the attacks inflicting heavy casualties to the terrorists. During the fire exchange, twelve terrorists were sent to hell, while a large number has been critically injured,” the ISPR said.
It added that four soldiers “fought gallantly” during the exchange of fire and were martyred.
The military’s media wing said the area was being sanitised to eliminate any other terrorists found in the vicinity.
“Security forces of Pakistan are determined to eliminate the menace of terrorism and such sacrifices of our soldiers further strengthen our resolve. The brave people of Chitral also stand firmly with the security forces in not allowing the terrorists to ruin the peace of the area,” the ISPR said.
The ISPR also said that the interim Afghan government was “expected to fulfil its obligations and deny the use of Afghan soil by terrorists for perpetuating acts of terrorism against Pakistan”.
Meanwhile, Lower Chitral Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Ali told Dawn.com that seven soldiers and over 40 terrorists were injured in the skirmish.
He told AFP the attackers “were in hundreds and were armed with light and heavy weapons. We were ready to face the attack and exchange of fire continued for some four hours”.
“We were monitoring their movements in areas close to the border for two or three days,” Ali was quoted as saying.
Police official Karim Khan told AFP that security forces had sealed entry to Chitral while another official said troops and paramilitary forces were rushed in to reinforce the district.
The banned militant Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) group claimed responsibility for the attacks on the military posts.
Earlier today, reports on social media suggested that villages in Chitral district had allegedly come under the TTP’s control in the early hours of Wednesday. No such development was mentioned by the government or the ISPR.
The Khorasan Diary, however, in the morning quoted a senior security official as saying there was “no truth of area being taken”.
Meanwhile, former North Waziristan MNA Mohsin Dawar termed the reports as “very concerning”.
Interim Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti saluted the valour of the soldiers involved in the operation.
Former prime minister and PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif paid tribute to the martyred soldiers and prayed for the country to be rid of the menace of terrorism.
Jamaat-i-Islami Emir Sirajul Haq said the attacks on the military posts were concerning. “The government should take effective measures to ensure the safety of life and property of the people,” he said on social media platform X and appreciated the sacrifice of the martyrs.
Uptick in terrorist attacks
Pakistan has witnessed an uptick in terror activities in recent months, especially in KP and Balochistan, after the outlawed TTP ended its ceasefire with the government in November last year.
On August 22, six soldiers embraced martyrdom in an exchange of fire in South Waziristan district. At least four terrorists were killed in the gun battle.
In July, as many as 12 soldiers of the Pakistan Army embraced martyrdom in separate military operations in the Zhob and Sui areas of Balochistan.
That was the military’s highest single-day death toll from terrorist attacks reported this year. Before this, 10 personnel were martyred in a ‘fire raid’ in Balochistan’s Kech district in February 2022.
A report released in July by the think tank Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies said the first half of the current year witnessed a steady and alarming rise in terror and suicide attacks, claiming the lives of 389 people across the country.
Amid the rise in militancy is a backdrop of growing concerns regarding cross-border terrorism by elements based in Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s military leadership and former prime minister Shehbaz Sharif, whose tenure ended last month, both raised concerns over the availability of “safe havens” and “liberty of action” available to militants in Afghanistan, saying there was also involvement of Afghan citizens in terror attacks in Pakistan. They had also urged Kabul for action.
In the initial response to these allegations, Taliban spokesperson in Qatar Suhail Shaheen had told Dawn that Kabul was committed not to allow anyone to use the soil of Afghanistan against any other country.
But in a separate interview with BBC Pashto, another spokesperson for the Islamic Emirate, Zabiullah Mujahid, took a harsher line — ostensibly in a bid to play to the Afghan galleries — advising Pakistan to resolve its internal problems itself, instead of pointing fingers at others.
More recently, Afghanistan’s supreme leader had warned Taliban members against carrying out attacks abroad. But merely days later, the Afghan authorities had alleged that dozens of banned Islamic State militants from Pakistan were killed or captured in Afghanistan in the past year.
A Dawn report last month had quoted an official from the KP Counter-Terrorism Department as saying that Islamabad and Kabul were in contact with each other to address the issue of militancy.
Additional input from AFP.