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Pakistani Taliban storms army base and takes soldiers hostage

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 18/12/2022 Joe Wallen
Taliban guard - AFP © AFP Taliban guard - AFP

Jihadists from the Pakistani Taliban stormed an army base in the country's northwest on Sunday, taking nine soldiers hostage as they demanded a helicopter and safe passage to Afghanistan. 

Seven fighters from the so-called Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) laid siege to the army base in the city of Bannu, killing several soldiers with machine guns and mortars. 

After entering the facility they freed several militants jailed inside. A video shared on social media by the TTP showed armed fighters surrounding a bleeding Pakistani army soldier. 

They threatened to kill the man and eight other Pakistani soldiers if they were not allowed to cross into neighbouring Afghanistan, which is becoming a safe haven for TTP fighters

Islamabad did not immediately comment on the hostage situation. Earlier in December, the TTP, an Islamist group which has waged an insurgency against the Pakistani state since 2007, announced an end to a ceasefire with Islamabad, ordering its members to again carry out attacks “wherever you can” in Pakistan.

They have since launched near daily deadly attacks on Pakistani military positions. The TTP has pledged allegiance to the Afghan Taliban, as the two groups share a common ideology and are known to have provided logistical support to one another in the past.

Deadly attacks

The TTP, which is the largest militant group targeting the Pakistani state, is most active along the Afghan-Pakistan border, where Islamabad has limited de facto control, and has recently launched a series of deadly attacks from Afghan territory into Pakistan.

Last week, the TTP launched two attacks from inside Afghan territory at the Chaman border-crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan, killing at least nine Pakistani civilians.

On Friday, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Pakistan’s foreign minister, threatened to take direct action against Kabul, warning that Islamabad would not tolerate Afghanistan becoming a base for international terrorism. 

“Pakistan will not tolerate cross-border terrorism by the TTP or other terrorist groups… We reserve the right to take direct action against them,” said Mr Bhutto-Zardari.

“We need to eliminate the safe havens of these terrorists; to cut off the sources of their financing and sponsorship; and to target and hold accountable individuals and entities responsible for the terrorist attacks.”

The Afghan Taliban has struggled to enforce law and order over the country since returning to power in August 2021.

The Islamic State has launched a series of attacks against foreigners in Afghanistan in recent weeks, including a failed assassination attempt on the Pakistani envoy and an attack on a Kabul hotel popular with Chinese nationals.

In July, a precision US drone strike killed Ayman al-Zawahiri, the al-Qaeda leader, who had been secretly allowed to live in Kabul by senior Taliban leaders.

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