Pakistani police: Militants kill officer near Afghan border

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — Militants opened fire on a security van killing a policeman Saturday in northwestern Pakistan, a region bordering Afghanistan where violence has spiked in recent months, local police said.

A search was underway to find the attackers who fled the scene in Dogar Umerzai, a village in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, police spokesperson Fatiullah Khan said.

Nobody immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

However, such incidents have intensified after the banned outfit Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, ended a cease-fire with the government in Islamabad and ordered its fighters to carry out attacks across the country.

The Pakistani Taliban is a separate group but also a close ally of the Afghan Taliban, who seized power in neighboring Afghanistan in August 2021 as U.S. and NATO troops were in the final stages of their pullout from the country after 20 years of war.

Many TTP leaders and fighters have found sanctuary and even been living openly in Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover, which has also emboldened the TTP.

Dogar Umerzai is in Bannu district, which has been targeted by militants in recent weeks.

Last month, 33 TTP fighters detained at Bannu’s Counter Terrorism Department seized the compound and took staff hostage. The Pakistani army’s response killed 25 militants.

TTP chief Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud in a video message released Saturday urged Pakistan’s religious clerics to stop calling his group a terrorist organization. He said the TTP still adhere to the cease-fire in line with talks brokered by the Taliban-led government in Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s national security committee has ruled out negotiations with militants, saying it will take tough action against them.

The Counter-Terrorism Department of Pakistan’s populous Punjab province on Saturday arrested five people alleged to have TTP links.

The operation foiled a terror attack in the cities of Lahore, Gujranwala and Sahiwal, according to the department. Explosives, weapons and equipment to make suicide vests were recovered.

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