ISLAMABAD (AP) — Troops raided a militant hideout in a former Pakistani Taliban stronghold near the border with Afghanistan on Friday, triggering a shootout that killed two insurgents, the military said.
Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif summoned the country’s opposition leader to forge a response to the recent surge in violence, including a mosque bombing that killed 101 people.
Troops on Friday recovered a cache of weapons in a militant hideout in North Waziristan, a district of the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, the military said in a statement. The militants killed during the raid had been involved in past attacks on security forces, it added. The statement provided no further details, and the identities of the slain militants were not immediately known.
Troops routinely carry out such raids to trace and arrest the Pakistani Taliban, who are also known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan.
The Pakistani Taliban are a separate group but are allies of the Afghan Taliban, who seized power in Afghanistan a year ago as U.S. and NATO troops were in the final stages of their pullout. The Taliban takeover in Afghanistan has emboldened the Pakistani Taliban, who have stepped up attacks since November when they ended the ceasefire with the government.
The latest development comes days after a suicide bomber attacked a mosque on the compound of police in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing 101 people. Authorities say the bomber wore a police uniform and the guards at the site assumed he was a police officer — their colleague — and did not search him.
On Friday, Sharif said in a televised address that he had invited his predecessor and now opposition leader, Imran Khan, and other officials to a conference Tuesday to discuss next steps. There was no immediate response from Khan, who was ousted in a no-conference vote in Parliament in April last year.
Sharif said Monday’s attack inside the mosque was carried out by a suicide bomber, and there was no truth in allegations and claims that it was a drone attack.
Pakistan blames the Pakistani Taliban, who maintain sanctuaries in Afghanistan, for orchestrating the bombing that wounded 225 wounded. Police say most of the casualties were not caused by the detonation of the bomber’s explosives but by the collapse of the roof of the 50-year-old Peshawar mosque. The force of the blast caused the roof, which was supported by outside walls but no pillars, to cave in.
The premier said there was a need to know who allowed the insurgents to return home.
When the ex-premier Khan was in the power, he had approved peace talks with TTP and even released some insurgents from Pakistani jails as a gesture of goodwill. But these talks hosted by Afghanistan’s rulers in Kabul failed in November when TTP ended a monthlong ceasefire, accusing the military of violating the truce.
Khan says he agreed to pardon only those insurgents who agreed to lay down their arms.