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Security forces regain control of Kohat tunnel

January 28, 2008

KOHAT, Jan 27: Security forces took positions on hilltops around the town of Darra Adamkhel and the Friendship Tunnel on Sunday as 24 militants and five soldiers were killed in clashes.

Sources said firing continued near the tunnel on Saturday night and several blasts were heard in the city.

Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said security forces had cleared the area and regained control of the Kohat tunnel and adjoining areas after fierce fighting.

The tunnel connects the southern parts of the province with Peshawar through the Indus Highway.

The ISPR claimed that 24 militants had been killed and many others had fled leaving arms and ammunition.

On Sunday morning, the troops used four helicopter gunships and heavy machine-guns to pound the hideouts of militants who had taken control of the tunnel on Friday morning and occupied the Kohat hills on Saturday.

After suffering huge casualties and surrendering control of the tunnel, the militants fired five rockets on the Kohat cantonment on Sunday night.

One of the rockets exploded near a military police checkpoint, another in a house in the Happy Valley, two in houses of army officers and one in the Malangabad graveyard. However, no casualties were reported.

According to army sources, clashes were continuing in Tor Chappar, Tora China, Bostikhel, Sheraki, Kotal hills and Akhorwal areas.

Darra Adamkhel administrator Kamran Zeb told Dawn that the top priority of the army was to secure the Friendship Tunnel and the troops would move towards the tunnel once it was cleared. The militants were going to the tunnel in small groups and firing on troops, he said.

A jirga and tribal elders continued their efforts to persuade the militants to hand over the ammunition trucks they had seized and vacate the area immediately.

“Six attempts have been made through the jirga to broker a peace deal with the militants but they seem to be sticking to their stance. Now the only way is to teach them a lesson and the militants will be wiped out from the area in two to three days. The operation will continue till the entire Darra Adamkhel area is cleared of militants,” Mr Zeb said.

The routes which might be used by the militants to escape to the adjoining Orakzai and Khyber agencies had been sealed by the army, the sources said.

Security forces shifted the bodies of seven soldiers to the Combined Military Hospitals in Kohat and Peshawar on Sunday night. The soldiers had died on Friday while defending the communication tower at the Friendship Tunnel.

Sources said there were 19 soldiers on duty at the tower when Taliban launched the attack on Friday. The militants had taken away the remaining 12 injured.