Pakistan troops repelled a cross-border raid from Afghanistan by “hundreds” of Pakistan Taliban militants on Wednesday, a senior official said, with extra forces rushed to the rugged frontier region.
Pakistan’s home-grown Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) movement has been emboldened by the return to power of the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan in 2021, and Islamabad regularly accuses its neighbor of harboring militants — a charge they deny.
“They 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,” Mohammad Ali, deputy commissioner of Chitral district, told AFP.
In a statement, the Pakistan military’s public relations wing said “a large group of terrorists equipped with latest weapons” attacked two outposts in the area.
Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said four Pakistan troops were killed, while “12 terrorists were sent to hell”.
“We were monitoring their movements in areas close to the border for two or three days,” deputy commissioner Ali said.
“Informers have also sent us information about the militant group movement.”
In a statement, the TTP claimed to have seized two military posts in the Bomburit area of Chitral, which is around 200 kilometers (125 miles) northwest of the capital Islamabad.
The Pakistan Taliban share a common hardline Islamist ideology with their Afghan counterparts.
The group was founded in 2007, when militants who fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan splintered off to focus their insurgency against Islamabad as payback for supporting America’s post-9/11 invasion there.
Police official Karim Khan told AFP that security forces had sealed entry to Chitral, a rugged area of steep hills and valleys popular with domestic tourists.
Another official said troops and paramilitary forces had been rushed in to reinforce the district.
“Sanitization of the area is being carried out to eliminate any other terrorists,” ISPR said.
At the height of their power, the TTP held sway over swathes of mountain communities, enforcing austere Islamic law, and patrolling land just 140 kilometers north of the capital.
But the Pakistani military came down hard after 2014 when TTP militants raided a school for children of army personnel and killed nearly 150 people, most of them pupils.
Its fighters were largely routed into neighboring Afghanistan, but now Islamabad claims the TTP are using Taliban-controlled Afghanistan as a foothold to stage assaults across the border.
Over the first 12 months of Taliban rule in Afghanistan, Pakistan witnessed a 50 percent surge in militant attacks, focused in the western border provinces according to the Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS).