Pakistani security forces have stormed a counterterrorism centre in a remote northwestern district to free several security officials taken hostage two days ago by armed group, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
The fate of hostages inside remained unclear as the forces on Tuesday were still looking to clear the entire compound in the Bannu district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province that borders Afghanistan.
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Security sources told the Reuters news agency the forces have retaken the centre, though the military or the government are yet to issue a statement.
Six security officials and several detainees were inside the centre, said the sources, who declined to be identified because they were not authorised to speak to the media.
“The operation is being concluded and there is no more resistance … the security forces have entered into the compound,” one security source said.
He said details on the hostages and the number of casualties would be given after the clearance operation was completed.
About 20 fighters from the TTP – also known as Pakistani Taliban for their association with the ruling Taliban in Afghanistan – were holed up at the centre, reports said.
“All options failed and the terrorists refused to free innocent people, so we decided to use force,” a senior security official told the news agency on condition of anonymity.
Reporting from the capital Islamabad, Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder said loud explosions were heard as black smoke billowed from the compound following the security operation.
Hyder said the TTP fighters were demanding a safe passage to Afghanistan.
“They wanted to take the hostages with them and promised that they would release them once they were secure and in a safe area,” he said.
Pakistani authorities on Monday opened talks to resolve the standoff with the fighters.
The TTP emerged to force the government to enforce their strict interpretation of Islamic laws in the country, to secure the release of their members in government custody, and a reduction of military presence in the former tribal regions.
The group has stepped up attacks across Pakistan since it announced the end of an Afghan Taliban-brokered ceasefire with the government last month.