Peshawar, Aug 27: Hundreds of militants crossed the Afghan border Saturday and attacked three security checkpoints in northwestern Pakistan, killing 26 paramilitary soldiers and police, officials said.
It was the latest of a series of attacks that Pakistani officials say have been launched from an area of eastern Afghanistan where the U.S. has largely pulled out its troops. The raids have increased tension between Pakistan, Afghanistan and the U.S.
Armed with heavy weapons, the militants seized control of a local village after attacking the security checkpoints in Chitral district, said local police official Nizam Khan. Pakistani forces responded to the raid and killed nine insurgents, he said.
But fighting was still ongoing Saturday afternoon, and Pakistani troops have called in helicopter gunships to drive the militants back across the border, said Maj. Ghulam Rasool, a member of the paramilitary forces.
The militants chanted “God is great!” and “Long live jihad!” as they fought, said Capt. Abdul Ghani, another member of the paramilitary forces.
Chitral is located across the border from the Afghan districts of Nuristan and Kunar, both of which house significant numbers of Afghan and Pakistani Taliban fighters. The U.S. largely pulled out of the area about a year ago but has recently added additional troops.
Pakistan complained earlier this summer that militants coming from Afghanistan killed at least 55 members of the security forces and tribal police in a spate of attacks, and demanded that U.S. and Afghan forces do more to stem the flow of fighters.
Kabul and Washington have long accused Pakistan of not doing enough to stop militants from crossing into Afghanistan to stage attacks. Afghanistan has also complained that Pakistan fired more than 750 rockets into eastern Afghanistan earlier this summer that killed at least 40 people.
The Pakistan army denied it intentionally fired rockets into Afghanistan, but acknowledged that several rounds fired at militants conducting cross-border attacks may have landed over the border.
Also Saturday, gunmen kidnapped and killed a retired army colonel in northwestern Pakistan, and a police officer died trying to rescue him, said police official Umer Hayat.
The gunmen seized Col. Shakeel Ahmad as he was on his way home from morning prayers in the garrison city of Kohat, said Hayat. Police intercepted the gunmen's car at a checkpoint and engaged them in a firefight in which one police officer was killed and two others wounded. The gunmen escaped and later shot dead Ahmad and abandoned his body alongside a road.
No group has claimed responsibility, but the Pakistani Taliban have often targeted soldiers and police in the country. AP