Armed group kills 10 in Pakistan’s restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region

Violence is mounting in the northern province and across the country as national elections approach.

Security personnel stand guard outside a hospital where injured police officers are treated after a militant attack on a police station in Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistan, February 5, 2024. REUTERS/Stringer NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.
Security personnel stand guard outside a hospital where injured police officers are treated after an attack on a police station in Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistan [Reuters]

At least 10 policemen have been killed in an attack in northern Pakistan as violence mounts in the run-up to national elections.

Police reported on Monday that attackers had targeted a police station in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Dera Ismail district with heavy weapons. Alongside the 10 people killed, at least six others were injured.

Police said that they have cordoned off the area and launched a search operation to hunt down the attackers.

Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TPJ) issued a statement claiming responsibility for the attack. The armed group is believed to be an offshoot of the outlawed Pakistani Taliban (TTP), which, seeking to overthrow the government and establish strict religious law, has targeted the state and its institutions for years. Dera Ismail Khan is a former TTP stronghold.

The remote northwestern region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has witnessed a rise in violence as Pakistan’s 128 million voters prepare for February 8 elections.

Rehan Zaib Khan, an independent candidate, and four aides were shot dead in the province’s Bajur district on January 31.

In December, the TPJ claimed responsibility for an attack in Tehsil Daraban during which a suicide bomber detonated an explosive-laden vehicle outside a police station. The attack killed at least 23 troops and wounded 32.

Last month, at least 101 people were killed when a suicide bomber targeted a mosque in the regional capital Peshawar.

Map of Dera Ismail Khan in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan

Two fronts

Violence has been mounting across Pakistan as the vote approaches.

Security threats are also rife in the southwestern region of Balochistan, where the outlawed Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) – the most prominent of several separatist groups – have stepped up attacks. Last week, at least 15 people were killed when the BLA targeted military and security installations in the city of Mach, 65km (40 miles) south of Balochistan’s capital, Quetta

Fearing violence during the February 8 ballot, Balochistan’s Information Minister Jan Achakzai announced on Sunday night that the internet service will remain temporarily restricted on election day.

“Ensuring the safety and security of ordinary citizens is of utmost importance, as there is a concern that terrorists may exploit social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and other similar channels for communication purposes,” he wrote in a post on X.

Balochistan, bordering Iran and Afghanistan, is strategically important because of its rich copper, zinc and natural gas reserves. Cities in the province are a constant target of armed groups.

Baloch nationalists initially wanted a share of provincial resources, but later initiated a movement for complete independence.

Abid Hussain in Islamabad contributed to this report.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies