• Expert says militant network, ‘lax security’ measures behind surge in militancy
• Two troops embrace martyrdom in North Waziristan gunfight

D.I. KHAN / PESHAWAR: Two civilians and a security guard were martyred in another ambush within one week targeting an oil and gas exploration company in Dera Ismail Khan, with experts attributing these attacks to a “network of militants” operating in the region due to lax security measures.

In a separate incident, two security personnel embra­ced martyrdom in North Waziristan district.

Rescue 1122 spokesperson Aizaz Mahmood told Dawn that the oil company’s convoy was attacked in sub-division Darazinda. As a result, driver Mohammad Faisal, 35, and another employee Asif Kamran, 29, were killed on the spot while a dozen others were injured.

Also, Sepoy Mohammad Shaheen, 33, employed on security duty of the project, having fought gallantly embraced martyrdom, according to ISPR.

This ambush followed a Nov 7 attack in which militants stormed an oil company office, martyring two policemen.

Retired brigadier Moham­mad Saad said militants wanted to build their presence in this particular region so that they could easily move from Khyber Pakhtun­khwa to southern and central parts of Punjab.

He referred to the recent attack on the Mianwali airbase to corroborate his point. Brig Saad also pointed to a “lax security environment” in D.I. Khan.

“There is an entire division of the armed forces deployed in Waziristan besi­des the presence of paramilitaries in Khyber, Mohmand and other districts. This deployment has made it difficult for militant groups to carry out attacks [in the region],” he said.

“However, the absence of the armed forces in D.I. Khan has made it easier for militants to target police and other targets,” Brig Saad told Dawn. Due to the concentration of militants in the area, they can easily target oil and gas exploration companies, lines of communication, and foreign investments.

However, former KP police additional inspector general Akhtar Ali Shah said the major reason for repeated attacks in the southern district was that ‘the militant network’ was still present in the area.

“This belt [a reference to Lakki Marwat, Orakzai, North and South Waziristan] is where the TTP leadership emerged from. The banned outfits chief Mufti Noor Wali hails from South Waziristan and since they have a network, it becomes easier for them to carry out their activities in these areas,” Mr Shah explained.

Experts said South Waziristan and North Waziristan once remained a hub of militancy with its leadership mostly belonging to these districts, except for Mullah Fazlullah, the only leader of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan who hailed from district Swat.

Another senior official, however, claimed that the militants only wanted to “make their presence felt”.

“If somebody says these areas are strategically important for militants; no, not at all. They are fewer in number and by targeting security forces, police, or oil and gas exploration companies, they [militants] just want to show their presence,” the official told Dawn.

Regional Police Officer Nasir Mehmood Satti, the officer responsible for the region, termed the attack a retaliation for operations against militants. “An operation is going on as we speak. We take action against them and in response, they hit soft targets [police],” Mr Satti told Dawn.

With the onset of winter, the movement in tribal districts becomes difficult due to its mountainous terrain. “The border with Afghanistan in Mohmand, Bajaur, Khyber and other tribal districts, is mountainous and it becomes difficult for militants to move during winters,” he said, adding that areas under his command were plains, making it easier for militants to launch attacks.

It may be noted that on November 11, three police personnel, including a station house officer, embraced martyrdom and five others, including a deputy superintendent of police, sustained injuries in a militant attack on police in Kari Shah Noor area of district Tank when DSP Chan Shah was leading a police party to arrest kidnappers of a woman in Shah Noor village.

Two troops martyred

Separately, two soldiers were martyred and a terrorist was killed in an exchange of fire in Mir Ali area of the North Waziristan district, the ISPR said.

A statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) read that security forces effectively engaged the terrorist location, killing one terrorist.

“However, during intense fire exchange, 25-year-old Sepoy Abdullah, resident of Mardan, and 19-year-old Sepoy Muhammad Sohail, resident of Tharparkar, having fought gallantly embraced Shahadat,” it read.

The statement read that sanitisation of the surrounding areas was being carried out to neutralise any terrorists found in the area, adding that security forces were determined to eliminate the menace of terrorism and such sacrifices of “our brave soldiers further strengthen our resolve”.

Our correspondent in North Waziristan also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, November 14th, 2023

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