Taliban prisoners in Pakistan overpower guards and take hostages | Taliban

Taliban detainees overpowered their guards at a counter-terrorism centre in north-western Pakistan, snatching police weapons and taking control of the facility, officials have said.

Flying drone with camera

The militants at the detention facility in Bannu, a district in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and part of a former tribal region, also took police and others inside the compound hostage, according to Mohammad Ali Saif, a spokesperson for the provincial government.

Officials say at least 30 Taliban fighters were involved in the incident and there could be as many as 10 hostages being held.

The action reflected the Pakistani government’s inability to exercise control over the remote region along the border with Afghanistan. The Pakistani Taliban are a separate group but also allied with the Afghan Taliban, who seized power in the neighbouring country last year, as US and Nato troops were in the final stages of their pullout from Afghanistan.

Few other details have emerged about the incident, which started late on Sunday – apparently while police were interrogating the Taliban detainees, according to Saif.

By Monday morning, Pakistan had dispatched military troops and special police forces to the area as security official were trying to negotiate with the hostage-takers. Saif said the facility was surrounded and that an operation was under way.

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Authorities were still in talks with the hostage-takers, enlisting the help of relatives of the Taliban insurgents, security officials told the Associated Press. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to talk to reporters.

The officials said soldiers were among the hostages. There were concerns the military could storm the facility if negotiations fail. In a video message circulating on social media, the hostage-takers threatened to kill the officers if their safe passage was not quickly arranged by the government.

Mohammad Khurasani, a spokesperson for the Pakistani Taliban – also known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP – confirmed the incident. He said some of the hostage-takers were members of the Pakistani Taliban who had been detained for years. Khurasani said the TTP fighters were demanding safe passage to North or South Waziristan.

Those areas were a Taliban stronghold until a wave of military offensives cleared the region of insurgents. Since then, TTP’s top leaders and fighters have been hiding in Afghanistan though the militants still have relatively free rein in parts of the province.

Earlier, in a video message, the hostage-takers had demanded they be airlifted to Afghanistan but Khurasani said that demand had been made by mistake, since their fighters were not aware – due to their prolonged detention – that TTP “enjoys control in some” parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, near the Afghan border.

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The Pakistani Taliban have stepped up attacks on security forces since last month, when they unilaterally ended a months-long ceasefire with the Pakistani government. The violence has strained relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers, who had brokered the ceasefire in May.

The TTP has waged an insurgency in Pakistan over the past 15 years, fighting for stricter enforcement of Islamic laws in the country, the release of their members in government custody and a reduction of Pakistani military presence in the country’s former tribal regions.

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