Security official killed as siege of police station in northwest Pakistan continues

Government confirms no breakthrough in talks with militants who demand 'safe passage'.

Security official killed as siege of police station in northwest Pakistan continues

Suspected militants have killed at least one security official after they took over a portion of a police station in northwest Pakistan, demanding a "safe passage" in exchange for the release of several personnel, officials and local media reported on Monday.

A group of suspected militants detained at a counter-terrorism facility in the Bannu district of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkwa province on Sunday managed to break out of the lockups and held security personnel hostage.

The suspects also fired at the security personnel, injuring another two, Mohammad Ali Saif, a KP government spokesman, told reporters but declined to offer further details.

The suspects loyal to outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a consortium of several militant groups operating in Pakistan, earlier, in a video message, demanded a safe passage to neighboring Afghanistan but later termed it a "mistake."

On Monday, The TTP, in a statement sent to a selected group of journalists, claimed the responsibility for the incident, demanding a safe passage to North or South Waziristan instead of Afghanistan.

The TTP warned that in case of an operation, the government and the army will be responsible for casualties.

According to footage going viral on social media, the militants were seen brandishing sophisticated weapons and shouting “Allah-o-Akbar” (God is Great). One of the militants is heard instructing others not to damage property or hurt anyone.

No breakthrough in talks

The situation remained tense in Bannu, which abuts North Waziristan, a former TTP headquarters, as security forces have cordoned off the cantonment area, where the facility is located.

Authorities asked the residents to stay indoors, suspending the internet and mobile phone services in the area.

The government and the TTP confirmed there is no breakthrough in talks despite the lapse of nearly 20 hours.

Saif said he has been in "contact with the Taliban high-ups," but there is no breakthrough yet.

“I spoke to the Taliban high-ups through the night but talks have not been fruitful thus far," local broadcaster Dawn News quoted Saif as saying.

The government has engaged the militants to avoid casualties, he went on to say.

The TTP said the group remained in talks with the government officials overnight and asked them to “shift the prisoners” to either South or North Waziristan, but "we have not received a positive response so far."

Pakistan has seen a surge in terrorist attacks from the Afghan side of the border, following the Taliban's storming back to power in Kabul in August last year.

At least four policemen were killed and as many injured in an ambush on a police station in Bannu's adjoining district of Lakki Marwat on Sunday.

Last month, six policemen were killed in a TTP-claimed ambush in Lakki Marwat.

Islamabad has been urging the Taliban to live up to their commitments to rein in terrorist groups and not to allow them to use Afghan soil as a launch pad for attacks.

The recent attacks are the aftermath of rescinding a fragile cease-fire between Pakistani security forces and the TTP, which could last only a few months. Both sides blame each other for the violation of the cease-fire.

Hüseyin Demir

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