Image Source : PTI (FILE) Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif

Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Monday vowed to “relentlessly eliminate terrorism” from the country after seven soldiers of the Pakistani Army were killed in a terrorist attack in the restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Monday. The incident occurred when the convoy of security personnel headed towards Lakki Marwat district, which is known for several terror attacks by radical Islamist groups.

“Deeply saddened by the martyrdom of Pak Army personnel, including a Captain in a targeted attack in Lakki Marwat District,” Sharif said in a post on X. “The sacrifices of our brave soldiers and citizens is a debt on us that we must repay by relentlessly eliminating terrorism from our nation,” he added.

According to security officials, Lakki Marwat is a hotbed of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) terrorists, which have undergone a resurgence following the return of the Taliban group in neighbouring Afghanistan. Islamabad has been pushing Kabul to take action against them, but so far, it has been of no avail.

What happened?

At least seven soldiers, including a Captain, were killed in a bomb blast on Sunday in the Lakki Marwat district, which is on the edge of a lawless tribal region near the border along with Afghanistan. A security convoy was heading towards Kachi Qamar, when it was attacked by terrorists.

First, the terrorists attacked the Army officers with an improvised explosive device (IED) blast and later opened fire on the personnel. The IED exploded near the military vehicle, killing seven soldiers including an officer, the army said in a statement. “The perpetrators of this heinous act will be brought to justice,” it said.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the region has long been a safe haven for Islamist militants who operate on both sides of the border. The TTP, an umbrella group of radical Islamist groups, has been waging a war against the state to try to overthrow the government.

TTP operations in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

The group, which is believed to be close to al-Qaeda, has been blamed for several deadly attacks across Pakistan, including an attack on army headquarters in 2009, assaults on military bases, and the 2008 bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad. The Taliban takeover in Afghanistan emboldened TTP, whose top leaders and fighters are hiding in Afghanistan.

In January last year, TTP militants unleashed an explosion in a crowded mosque inside a highly secured police compound in the city of Peshawar, resulting in the killing of at least 100 security personnel. However, while Pakistan has stated that hostile groups operate from “sanctuaries” across the border, the Taliban government routinely denies the charges.

Kabul has previously said rising violence in Pakistan is a domestic issue for Islamabad. Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have soured in recent months, as Islamabad accused Kabul is not doing enough to tackle militant groups targeting Pakistan.

A United Nations report published earlier this year said the Taliban continued to be “sympathetic” to the TTP and supplied it with weapons and equipment, and some Afghan Taliban members joined the TTP in conducting cross-border raids against Pakistan, according to Voice of America.

(with inputs from agencies)

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