Pakistani Army on Friday claimed to have killed more than 100 suspected terrorists a day after an Islamic State group suicide bomber killed 75 people at a most famous Sufi shrine.
“Over 100 terrorists have been killed since last night and sizeable apprehensions also made,” the military said in an operations update on Friday evening. “Terrorists will be targeted ruthlessly, indiscriminately, anywhere and everywhere. No let up,” an armed forces spokesman added in a tweet.
Earlier, following the Thursday attack, on the 13th century shrine, army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa pledged, “Each drop of the nation’s blood shall be avenged, and avenged immediately. No more restraint for anyone.”
With authorities facing angry criticism for failing to tighten security before the shrine bomber struck, analysts warned that the wave of violence pointed to a major escalation in Islamic militants’ attempts to destabilise the region. “This is a virtual declaration of war against the state of Pakistan,” said Imtiaz Gul, head of the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies in Islamabad.
The Pakistani Armed Force’ media wing, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), said that a “sizeable” number of suspects were also arrested since the bombing in Sehwan, where the bomber blew himself up. Hundreds of people reportedly gathered there for Thursday prayers.
With pressure growing for action, Pakistan demanded that neighboring Afghanistan hand over 76 “terrorists” it said were sheltering over the border.
The military launched a search-and-strike operation in Khyber Agency’s Shalman near the Pak-Afghan border, using heavy artillery. Many casualties might have taken place there, security officials said.
The Pakistan Army also summoned Afghan diplomats on Friday to the general headquarters in Rawalpindi, where the officials were handed a list of at least 76 terrorists hiding across the border in Afghanistan and directing terrorist activities in Pakistan.
“Afghan government has been asked to target them and hand them over to Pakistan…army is for security of people of Pakistan against all types of threat. Nation to stay steadfast with full confidence in their security forces,” army chief Bajwa was quoted as saying in the statement.
The ISPR statement, however, did not mention where the suspected terrorists were killed or about the arrests of the suspects, only mentioning that the details will be shared with the public soon. According to ISPR release on Friday, of the 100-odd terrorists killed, 46 were accounted for.
Reports state that the Pakistan Army has launched several combing operations across the country, even in the Punjab province. “Intelligence agencies are making progress to unearth networks behind recent (terrorist) incidents,” Pakistan Armed Forces, Major General Asif Ghafoor said.
Paramilitary Sindh Rangers have claimed to have killed 18 terrorists in overnight operations in the province. Of these, 7 were killed in a shootout on a highway near Kathor when troops were returning from Sehwan. An official release said that 13 terrorists were killed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the northwest. Four terrorists were slain in Lower Orakzai of Orakzai Agency. Eleven were killed in Karachi, according to the Rangers. Government said scores of suspects were also arrested.
Weapons and hand grenades were found on the slain militants. Political observers said the army crackdown seemed a predictable response. “When you (army) have information about the presence of terrorists, why don’t you act before they strike?” asked Mazhar Abbas, a security analyst.