3 Pakistani soldiers, 1 militant killed in separate shootouts during raids along the Afghan border


ISLAMABAD (AP) — Two soldiers and one militant were killed in a shootout during an overnight military operation against militant activity in the northwest alongside the border with Afghanistan.

A military statement late Friday said that security forces initiated an operation in Miran Shah, the main town of North Waziristan, “to eliminate remaining terrorists” after receiving concrete intelligence reports about the presence of militants.

It said as troops closed in on the location, a group of militants was spotted and intercepted, triggering an intensive shootout, resulting in the death of the army major leading the operation and another soldier. One militant was killed and another was wounded.

The army said they conducted another raid on a militant hideout in Tirah valley in the Khyber district near the border with Afghanistan where a soldier and a militant were killed early Friday.

There has been an increase in militant attacks on security forces in the northwest in recent days. On Thursday, a suicide bomber targeted a security convoy in northwest Pakistan, killing nine soldiers and wounding 20 others. The attack happened in Bannu, a district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Bannu is the gateway to North Waziristan, which has served for decades as a safe haven for militants until the military carried out a major operation after an attack on an army-run school in Peshawar in 2014 killed more than 150 people, mostly school children.

After the years-long operation, the army announced it had cleared the region of local and foreign militants. Occasional attacks have continued, however, raising concerns that the local Taliban, known as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, found sanctuaries in Afghanistan and are regrouping in the area.

The Pakistani Taliban are a separate group but allies of the Afghan Taliban, which seized power in Afghanistan in 2021 as the U.S. and NATO troops were in the final stages of their pullout.

In 2022, the Pakistani Taliban ended a cease-fire with the government in Islamabad and ordered its fighters to resume attacks across the country.

Pakistan has repeatedly asked the interim Afghan government to act against “individuals and entities that threaten Pakistan” and live up to its commitments to the international community.

Meanwhile, counterterrorism police in Punjab province arrested five women allegedly linked to the Islamic State group. A police statement said that counterterrorism officers picked up and interrogated a total of 27 suspects in raids in different cities, including Lahore and Shaikhupura.

Police said the five women had Islamic State group literature in their possession along with receipt books showing the collection of funds, fuses and wires for use in bomb making and cellphones they used to communicate with IS leaders. The statement said the level of involvement of the women in IS activities was being investigated.

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