All terrorists killed, 2 SSG commandos martyred as operation at Bannu CTD centre concludes: Khawaja Asif
- Defence minister says clear evidence terrorists from Afghanistan or locally are rising again in KP and Balochistan
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on Tuesday confirmed that “all terrorists” of the banned outfit Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) who held hostages at a Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) centre in Bannu were killed in an operation conducted by the Pakistan Army, Aaj News reported.
Speaking on the floor of the National Assembly, the defence minister said two commandos of the army’s Special Service Group (SSG) embraced martyrdom, while 15 others received bullet injuries.
He expressed concerns over the CTD unit's failure to cope with the threat of terrorism, saying the chief minister of the province was "held hostage" in Zaman Park, while the terrorism threat was on the rise in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
“The unfortunate aspect of this is that terrorism is again making strides in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. [Terrorism] incidents have taken place in other provinces as well but there is clear evidence that terrorists from across the border or locally are rising again [in KP and Balochistan]."
ISPR says military operation to be completed soon
Immediately after Asif's remarks, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) issued a statement saying the "operation is successfully underway way at CTD office Bannu and is going to be completed soon."
Earlier, it was reported that security forces launched an operation to free hostages from militants at the counter-terrorism centre in Bannu, three sources told Reuters.
There were six security officials and several inmates inside the centre, the sources said.
Local residents said they heard explosions coming from the vicinity of the centre.
"All options failed and the terrorists refused to free innocent people, so we decided to use force," a senior security official told Reuters on anonymity, adding that an operation was not launched earlier because of the safety of the hostages.
He said the minimum force would be used to ensure the hostages' safe release. Residents said they heard explosions coming from the vicinity of the centre on Tuesday.
On Sunday, more than 30 members of the outlawed TTP held several officers hostages after breaking free from custody and seizing a police station in Bannu, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, officials said. The militants had overpowered their jailers and snatched weapons.
They took hostages to negotiate with government authorities, officials said. They fired at security personnel, injuring a policeman and a soldier.
A video posted on social media, which the government official confirmed to be from the scene, showed a group of armed men, with one threatening to kill all the hostages.
"During the interrogation, some of them snatched guns from the policemen and later took the entire staff hostage," he told AFP, on condition of anonymity.
"They want us to provide them safe passage via a ground route or by air. They want to take all the hostages with them and to release them later on the Afghan border or inside Afghanistan."
Hostage talks start
Pakistani authorities had on Monday opened talks to try to resolve the stand-off with the militants who were holding security personnel hostage.
"We are in negotiations with the central leaders of the Pakistani Taliban in Afghanistan,” said Mohammad Ali Saif, a spokesman for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government.
He said the authorities were yet to receive a response from the TTP, adding that relatives of the militants and local tribal elders had also been involved in starting talks.