Pakistan troops stand guard near a military base where attacks resulted in the deaths of many soldiers. The attacks were in response to US drone attacks that killed two Taliban commanders., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
February 2, 2013
Taliban Militants Attack Pakistani Base
By SALMAN MASOOD and ISMAIL KHAN
New York Times
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Taliban militants killed at least nine soldiers and four paramilitary soldiers in an attack on a Pakistani Army base in northwestern Pakistan early Saturday, officials said. Ten civilians, including three women and three children who were living in a nearby compound, were also killed.
The brazen assault took place in the restive Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province just a day after a suicide bombing near a mosque in another northwestern town, Hangu, killed at least 26 people.
A spokesman for Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, commonly known as the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility and said the attack was to avenge the death of two Taliban commanders killed in American drone strikes.
According to initial details, Taliban militants, armed with heavy machine guns, fired rockets in the predawn assault at the base in Serai Norang in the Lakki Marwat district, setting off a heavy gun battle that lasted for several hours.
A Pakistani Army official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that 12 militants were killed in the assault.
“Bodies of four terrorists, out of which two were wearing suicide jackets, are in custody of security forces,” the official said.
Eighteen members of the security forces were wounded in the attack and were sent for treatment to a military hospital in Peshawar, the provincial capital.
During the attack, one of the suicide bombers entered a house near the camp and detonated his explosives, killing the women and children, the official said.
Pakistani officials described the base as “an isolated camp” and one of the three bases set up two years ago to wrest Lakki Marwat from the control of Taliban militants.
The ferocity of the attack, which appeared to have been well planned and coordinated, took security officials by surprise, and they speculated that the attackers came from the neighboring lawless semiautonomous tribal regions, where the government has traditionally had little sway.
“We are trying to piece together evidence,” a security official said.
Lakki Marwat borders the tribal region of South Waziristan, a rugged frontier that is a redoubt of Taliban militants.
Large-scale Taliban assaults, involving several dozen fighters, are not unprecedented and indicate the extent of the challenge posed to the embattled security forces.
In the most recent such attack in December, several dozen Taliban militants kidnapped 22 tribal police officers after attacking security checkpoints on the outskirts of Peshawar. One police officer escaped but the rest were killed.
The Pakistani Army provided few details about the assault on Saturday and the subsequent operation to clear out the area.
But army officials maintained that the assault was successfully repulsed. The exact number of attackers remained unclear.
The Taliban spokesman, Ihsanullah Ihsan, who said in a telephone interview the attack was in retaliation for the killings of two Taliban commanders, identified one of the commanders as Wali Muhammad, also known as Toofani Mehsud. He was killed in an American drone strike on Jan. 6 in the tribal region of South Waziristan and was known as a trainer of suicide bombers.
The country’s lawless tribal regions have been a haven for local and foreign militants and as a result have been a frequent target of American drone strikes. Pakistan’s Parliament has repeatedly demanded an end to drone strikes, but Pakistani officials privately acknowledge the effectiveness of such attacks.
Salman Masood reported from Islamabad, and Ismail Khan from Peshawar, Pakistan. Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud contributed reporting from Islamabad.