All hostages freed and captors killed as Pakistan police siege ends

All hostages freed and captors killed as Pakistan police siege ends
An hours-long hostage situation at a counter-terrorism police centre in Pakistan ended when all hostage takers were killed.
3 min read
20 December, 2022
Offices and roads were closed and checkpoints have been set up around the area [Getty]

All 33 suspected militant prisoners who seized a Pakistan police station over the weekend were killed and their hostages freed in a clearance operation by special forces on Tuesday, the defence minister said.

The hostage takers, who were suspected of being members of various militant groups including the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), overpowered their jailors and snatched weapons on Sunday.

"All the hostages have been freed," Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif told parliament. "Ten to 15 men from the SSG (special forces) including an officer were wounded while two were martyred."

Elite troops stormed the police station around noon when differences broke out between the hostage takers over how to handle their captives, with witnesses reporting blasts and heavy firing.

The suspected militants, who were being held on suspicion of terrorism, had demanded safe passage to Afghanistan in return for releasing the hostages - at least eight police officers and military intelligence officials - Muhammad Ali Saif, a spokesman for the provincial Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, said earlier.

"There were 33 terrorists from different groups who had been arrested and jailed in the counter-terrorism department compound," Asif said.

"One of them hit his guard on the head with a brick while going to the toilet and snatched his weapon," he added, explaining how the siege unfolded.

The police station is within a cantonment area in Bannu, adjacent to Pakistan's formerly self-governed tribal areas and near the border with Afghanistan.

Offices and roads were closed and checkpoints have been set up around the area.

Local schools were also ordered shut on Tuesday out of fear of more kidnappings, a senior government official at the scene told AFP.

The same source earlier said Pakistani officials had asked the government in Kabul to help with the release of the hostages.

The TTP, separate from the Afghan Taliban but with a similar hardline Islamist ideology, said its members were behind the incident and demanded authorities provide them safe passage to border areas.

A spokesman told AFP that special forces suffered heavy casualties and had not been able to enter the police station.

The TTP emerged in 2007 and carried out a horrific wave of violence in Pakistan that was largely crushed after a military operation beginning in 2014.

However, attacks are on the rise again since the Afghan Taliban seized control of Kabul last year, with most targeting security forces.

A shaky months-long ceasefire between the TTP and Islamabad ended last month.

Overnight on Monday, at least 50 Pakistan Taliban militants stormed another police station in Wana - also close to the Afghan border and some 200 kilometres south of Bannu - according to local government and senior police officials, both of whom asked not to be named.

The group locked up police officers and seized weapons before border force troops moved in to take back control.

The TTP claimed responsibility, saying two police officers were killed.

Authorities have not officially acknowledged the incident.