35 killed in Taleban attack on Pakistan army checkpost Four houses damaged

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan, Feb 2, (Agencies): Militants attacked an isolated army checkpoint in Pakistan’s restive northwest on Saturday, with at least 35 people killed in the initial assault, subsequent crossfire and a rocket attack on a house, officials said.

The Pakistan Taleban claimed responsibility, saying the attack was in response to a US drone strike in neighbouring North Waziristan last month in which two commanders were killed.

The Pakistani military and pro-government militias have since 2009 regained territory from the Pakistan Taleban, who once controlled land a few hours’ drive from the capital of Islamabad.

The militants attacked the post at Lakki Marwat early on Saturday.

“Thirteen security personnel and 11 civilians were killed in the attack,” a security official said of the raid which happened around 240 kilometres (150 miles) south of Peshawar, the capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

Another official said that the civilians were killed when one of the suicide bombers ran into a house as security forces attempted to repel the attackers from the checkpost.

“A suicide bomber entered a nearby house in a residential colony of the irrigation department and blew himself up. Four children, three women and four men were killed there,” Nisar Ahmed, a senior government official, told AFP.

He said four houses were also damaged in the attack.

“The explosion damaged four houses in the colony. Civilians who were killed in the attack were residents of these houses,” he said.

The security official said that eight soldiers were also injured.

The attack was on a joint checkpost of the Pakistan army and a paramilitary force in the Sarai Norang area of Lakki Marwat district. Another security official in Peshawar said security forces killed 12 militants. The Taleban claimed the attack but disputed 12 militants were killed, saying they had sent only four suicide bombers.

“We sent only four suicide bombers to attack this checkpost. We attacked it to avenge the killing of two of our friends in a recent drone strike,” Ehsanullah Ehsan, a spokesman for Tehrik-e-Taleban Pakistan (TTP), told AFP by phone.

“The Pakistan army and security forces provide assistance to the US for drone strikes. So, we are taking revenge for their cooperation with the US.”

Later on Saturday evening, one soldier was killed and three others were wounded when an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) exploded in a compound, where they were conducting a search operation, in Orakzai tribal district.

Taleban and al-Qaeda-linked militants are accused of plotting attacks from the tribal belt on Pakistani, Afghan and Western targets.

Taleban and other militants have in recent months increased their attacks on targets associated with the Pakistan army and country’s air force bases.

They attacked Peshawar airport in December last year forcing security personnel to fight for two days to clear the area.

Pakistan came under huge US pressure to do more to destroy militant sanctuaries after US Navy SEALs found and killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani military town of Abbottabad on May 2, 2011.

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