Three police personnel were killed and two others injured in yet another brazen terrorist attack on a checkpoint, the second violent incident this month in the relatively peaceful region of Gilgit-Baltistan, police said.
The mountainous area has been comparatively free of the deadly militancy that has plagued other parts of Pakistan for years.
Last week unknown militants torched over a dozen schools for girls and boys in Diamer District’s Darel and Tangir valleys.
The terrorists attacked a police station in Chilas last week and freed their accomplices who were arrested by the police. During the attack, a policeman Arif Hussain was killed. The suspects also opened fire on the vehicle of a District and sessions judge but he escaped unhurt near Chilas.
Around seven militants launched the latest assault in the early hours of Saturday, sparking an exchange of fire in which three policemen and one attacker were killed, a local administration official told AFP.
“The latest attack came in Kargah area where militants attacked a police installation engaging 12 policemen there,” said Dildar Hussain Malik.
“We have arrested four suspected militants including two wounded in the encounter.”
Local police confirmed the incident and said operations were underway to track down the attackers who fled the scene.
Another report suggests that around 10 armed men opened fire on the police check-post at Jut village of Kargah, 10km off the capital city, killing sepoy Nawab Khan, Havaldar Fazalur Rehman, and sepoy Abdul Wakil, residents of Naupura and Shiyotti villages. Sepoy Zeeshan and Ziaur Rehman, residents of Naikoi were injured. They were shifted to the District Headquarter Hospital.
Police sources told The High Asia Herald that the terrorists were suspected to be involved in the arson of the schools in Diamer district.
The culprits might have fled the search operation going on in the Diamer district through Kargah Nallah which connects Darel and Tangir valleys of Diamer.
The terrorist killed in the attack was identified as commander Khalil affiliated with IS militant group gaining prominence in the Afghan province of Nuristan.
The attackers had also tried to break into an army-run school but were stopped by guards, a local resident, Ghayas Ali told Reuters. “People heard heavy explosions.”
A spokesperson for the Gilgit-Baltistan regional government Faizullah Faraq said a preliminary investigation indicates that eight to 10 terrorists attacked the check-post.
He said that security had been put on high alert across the region.
Meanwhile, political activists condemned the attack on police checkpoint and held security apparatus responsible for the rising incidents of terrorism in the peaceful region.
The Awami Workers Party leaders, Akhtar Amin, Ikram Jamal, Akhon Bai, Asif Sakhi, Abid Taishi, progressive activists — Shabbir Mayar, Asif Naji, Hasnain Ramal and others also condemned the incident and questioned the efficiency of the dozens security agencies who are quick enough to arrest political workers and put their names on the Anti-Terrorism Act’s schedule-4 but miserably failed to counter terrorism.
Meanwhile, a suicide attack on Saturday in Balochistan targeted a bus carrying Chinese engineers, wounding at least five people including two Chinese nationals, officials said.
The attack came in Dalbandin region, around 340 kilometers (211 miles) from Quetta, the capital of southwestern Balochistan province when the Chinese engineers working on a mineral project were being transported to the city.
Local administration and police officials told AFP that two paramilitary soldiers providing security the driver of the bus were wounded in the attack alongside the two Chinese nationals.
“The attacker, waiting in a small truck along the route, exploded the vehicle when the bus carrying Chinese engineers came close to him,” Dostain Dashti, a senior police officer in the region, told AFP on phone.
He said that the body of the suicide attacker was blown up in the attack and his vehicle caught fire.
Saifullah Khaitran, a senior local administration official, confirmed the attack, adding that the condition of all the injured was stable.
He added that the engineers were working on the Saindak project, a joint venture between Pakistan and China to extract gold, copper and silver from an area close to the Iranian border.
Muhammad Ibrahim, the driver of the targeted bus, told AFP from his hospital bed that he had averted major loss by slamming on the brakes when he saw blast in front of him.
“The whole bus would have burnt if I had not applied the brakes in an emergency,” he said.
Baloch insurgents later claimed responsibility for the attack.
“We targeted this bus which was carrying Chinese engineers,” Jiand Baloch, a spokesperson for Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) told AFP by phone.
“We attacked them because they are extracting gold from our region, we won’t allow it,” he said.
Balochistan is home to a long-running ethnic Baloch insurgency aimed at seeking greater control over the province’s abundant mineral resources.
Bordering Iran and Afghanistan, Balochistan is the largest of Pakistan’s four provinces, but the roughly seven million inhabitants have long complained they do not receive a fair share of its gas and mineral wealth.
Beijing is ramping up investment in its South Asian neighbour as part of a plan unveiled in 2015 that will link its far-western Xinjiang region to Gwadar port in Balochistan with a series of infrastructure, power and transport upgrades.
Pakistan also regularly accuses its eastern neighbour India of funding and arming the separatist insurgents.—Additional inputs from Reuters/AFP