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Pakistan troops search for militants suspected in deadly attack on police station

An army soldier examines damages on the site of a bombing at a police station on the outskirts of Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistan, Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023.
AP
An army soldier examines damages on the site of a bombing at a police station on the outskirts of Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistan, Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A suicide bomber detonated his explosive-laden vehicle at a police station's main gate in northwest Pakistan early Tuesday, killing at least 22 officers and wounding 32 others, and causing a part of the building to collapse upon impact, officials said.

Some militants also opened fire and a shootout ensued for hours between them and security forces before three attackers were gunned down, local police officer Kamal Khan said.

The death toll from the attack was likely to rise as some of the officers were in critical condition, authorities said. The bodies of the 22 security forces killed were transferred to a hospital, Mohammad Adnan, a senior police official told reporters.

Police launched a search operation in the surrounding area to apprehend the militants who got away, officials said.

The attack happened in Dera Ismail Khan, a city in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province bordering Afghanistan, Khan said. The province is a former stronghold of the militant Pakistani Taliban group, also known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP.

The newly formed militant group Tehreek-e-Jihad Pakistan, or TJP — believed to be an offshoot of the TTP — claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement, saying it targeted the officers who were at the police station. The statement also claimed that 20 officers were killed. However, this couldn't be independently verified.

A larger number of security forces from across the country have had a constant presence lately at the Daraban police station where they were conducting intelligence-based operations against militants in the area with help from local police, said Khan

Pakistan's caretaker Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti denounced the onslaught in a statement and conveyed his condolences to those who were "martyred". He couldn't immediately confirm the number of officers killed in the attack which he called an act of "terrorism."

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has witnessed a rise in violence with several deadly incursions this year. In January, at least 101 people were killed when a suicide bomber targeted a mosque in Peshawar.

The Pakistani Taliban have stepped up attacks on security forces since 2022. Authorities say the insurgents have become emboldened while living openly in Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover of that country in 2021.

The TTP, though a separate group, is closely allied with the Afghan Taliban.

Dera Ismail Khan is located near South Waziristan, a former sanctuary for militants. Pakistan's army carried out multiple operations against militants there after some attacked an army-run school, killing more than 150 people, mostly school children, in 2014.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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