Islamabad, Pakistan – At least six policemen have been killed in an ambush as they patrolled in a vehicle in Pakistan’s northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in one of the deadliest attacks in months.
Local officials told Al Jazeera the incident took place on Wednesday morning when their vehicle was fired upon in the city of Lakki Marwat, about 200km (125 miles) from the provincial capital of Peshawar.
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Police said there were no security cameras installed in the area where the incident took place. An investigation has been launched.
In a statement, the banned armed group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also known as the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack, adding that its attackers made it back to safe havens.
The Pakistani Taliban, allied with the Afghan Taliban, has been waging an armed rebellion in Pakistan for more than a decade, calling for the stricter enforcement of Islamic laws, the release of their members from government custody and a reduced Pakistani military presence in tribal-dominated regions.
In May this year, the group extended an indefinite ceasefire agreement with Islamabad, with the talks brokered by the Taliban government in Kabul.
But attacks by the Pakistani Taliban have not stopped, mainly in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
In a statement, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s office condemned the latest attack, calling the police a “vanguard against terrorism”.
“Let us make no mistake. Terrorism continues to be one of Pakistan’s foremost problems. Our armed forces and police have valiantly fought the scourge,” he tweeted.
Let us make no mistake. Terrorism continues to be one of Pakistan's foremost problems. Our armed forces & police have valiently fought the scourge. No words are enough to condemn terrorists' attack on a police van in Lakki Marwat. My thoughts & prayers are with bereaved families.
— Shehbaz Sharif (@CMShehbaz) November 16, 2022
Police officials told Al Jazeera it was the fourth such attack on law enforcement officials in the past few weeks.
According to data compiled by the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), an Islamabad-based research organisation, at least 65 such attacks took place in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa this year, killing at least 98 people and wounding 75.
Seven of those attacks took place in Lakki Marwat, PIPS data shows.
PIPS director and security analyst Amir Rana told Al Jazeera that while the government and the Pakistani Taliban have a ceasefire in place, the armed group portrays its attacks as defensive manoeuvres.
“Security forces face this issue that whenever they get complaints of abductions or extortion, they carry out their operations which the TTP says is a clear violation of the ceasefire agreement, and then they retaliate,” he said.