The attack was on a school being used as a military outpost in the Draban region of Dera Ismail Khan, in Pakistan’s lawless northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region — long a stronghold for the local version of the Taliban.
Taliban success emboldens Pakistani militants, and deadly attacks surge
“The whole nation pays homage to the sacrifices of the martyrs in the fight against terrorism,” said interim Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar on the attack. “Such coward attacks could not demoralize our forces.”
The attack was claimed by Tehrik-e-Jihad, a little-known group analysts say is an offshoot of the Pakistani Taliban or at least an ally. Social media accounts for the Taliban, which has been battling the Pakistani government for more than a decade, have carried the group’s statements.
“Our suicide bombers attacked a military compound at 2:30 a.m. and started killing soldiers one by one. An army camp is set up in a school. More than 20 soldiers were killed in the attack,” Mohammed Qassim, the group’s spokesman, said in a statement.
A video released by the group purportedly shows the early phases of the attack with what appears to be night-vision images of snipers shooting what it describes as Pakistani soldiers at the outpost.
Pictures from the scene showed collapsed buildings and several badly burned bodies said to be of the attackers, as well as their explosive belts. The army statement said that “sanitization operations” were underway to uncover any further terrorist presence in the area. A curfew has been declared, meanwhile, and the local market and school have been closed.
Once believed to be largely defeated, the Pakistani Taliban or Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has been responsible for a resurgence of attacks, especially in the past few months, in the wake of their Afghan counterparts’ seizure of power next door in 2021.
The TTP seeks to oust the current government of Pakistan and put in place a conservative Islamic legal and political system — much like there is currently in Afghanistan under the Taliban there.
Many of the attacks appear to originate from Afghanistan, though the Afghan Taliban denies it is providing a haven for the Pakistani militants.
In the first half of 2023, militant attacks in Pakistan soared by 80 percent, according to the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies, with the Pakistani Taliban assumed to be involved in most cases.
Paul Schemm in London and Shaiq Hussain in Islamabad contributed to this report.
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