Pakistan said Thursday that at least three of its soldiers were killed in clashes with “terrorists” near the volatile border with Afghanistan.
An army statement reported the “intense” shootout in Kurram border district in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province had also left two militants dead. The statement said the slain men were “actively involved” in attacks on security forces but gave no further details.
Residents and local journalists said the pre-dawn gunfight erupted after militants from across the Afghan side of the border raided a Pakistani outpost and inflicted heavy casualties on the troops. The veracity of the claims could not be independently verified.
No group has taken responsibility.
The Pakistani border province has experienced almost daily militant attacks in recent months, with most of them aimed at security forces.
The outlawed Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also known as the Pakistani Taliban, has taken credit for much of the violence.
The TTP, which the United States has declared a global terrorist organization, is known as a Pakistani offshoot and an ally of Afghanistan’s ruling Islamist Taliban.
Islamabad maintains the TTP leadership has long taken refuge in the conflict-torn neighboring country and has been directing cross-border attacks from there.
Pakistani officials say TTP leaders and commanders have been operating out of their Afghan sanctuaries with greater operational freedom since 2021, when the Taliban seized power in Kabul and all U.S.-led foreign troops withdrew from Afghanistan.
“We are engaged with Afghan authorities on issues related to security and border management,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch told a regular news briefing in the Pakistani capital Thursday.
“Afghanistan has given certain assurances, and we hope the promises made will be honored,” she said.
The Taliban administration maintains it is not allowing any group to threaten other countries, including Pakistan, from Afghan soil. Kabul brokered and hosted several rounds of talks between Pakistani and TTP negotiators.
The group’s Afghan-based fugitive chief, Noor Wali Mehsud, also took part in the discussions but the process fell apart in November when the TTP terminated a unilateral truce with the Pakistani government, accusing it of not honoring the terms of engagement.
The group has since intensified attacks in Pakistan. It also claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Islamabad that killed a police officer and wounded 10 people last week.
The attack prompted the U.S. embassy to warn its staff against visiting Islamabad’s Marriott Hotel over the holidays, saying, “Unknown individuals are plotting to attack Americans.”
TTP and separatist ethnic Baluch insurgents have also taken credit for a recent spate of attacks in southwestern Baluchistan province, which also shares a border with Afghanistan.
December 2022 has turned out to be the deadliest month in a decade for Pakistani security forces, leaving at least 40 personnel dead and dozens wounded, according to official statements and local media reports.