South Asia

Militant attack in northwest Pakistan kills 23 soldiers, Pakistani army says

File photo.

A six-member suicide squad targeted a military camp in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday, driving an explosive-laden truck into the facility and causing the death of at least 23 soldiers, the army reported.

This incident marks the heaviest death toll in a single attack in years, occurring less than two months ahead of national elections scheduled for February 8, 2024.

The gun and bomb attack, claimed by an Islamist militant group, has raised concerns among political observers about the feasibility of holding elections amid a surge in militant attacks in the northwest and southwest regions of the 241-million-nation.

The attack took place in the remote district of Dera Ismail Khan, on the edge of lawless tribal regions bordering Afghanistan, according to a statement from the army. The statement noted that all six attackers were killed in the ensuing battle, contradicting earlier reports by two security officials that had put the death toll at 24.

The army had established the base camp in a police station complex in the Daraban area of the district. “The attempt to enter the post was effectively thwarted, which forced the terrorists to ram an explosive-laden vehicle into the post, followed by a suicide bombing attack,” said the army statement. The resulting blasts led to the collapse of the building, causing multiple casualties.

The army revealed that the attack occurred a day after two soldiers were killed in different operations in the region, along with 21 militants.

Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar ul Haq Kakar condemned the attack, as stated by his office. Aizaz Mehmood, an official of the state-run rescue service, mentioned that several of the wounded were in critical condition.

In a statement, a Pakistani Taliban group, the Tahreek-e-Jihad Pakistan (TJP), which has emerged recently and claimed several attacks in recent months, asserted that its militants carried out the attack against the Pakistani army.

It remains unclear whether the group is linked to the main Tahreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) group, which has targeted the state and its agencies for years, seeking to overthrow the government and establish rule based on their harsh interpretation of Islamic law.