Two cops killed as Taliban militants seize counter-terrorism centre in Pakistan

Peshawar: At least two policemen were killed when Pakistani Taliban militants dramatically seized a counter-terrorism centre and took some people as hostages in Pakistan’s troubled Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, prompting authorities to put the Army’s special forces on alert on Monday as they initiated negotiations with the terrorists.

The standoff began on Sunday when an arrested militant who was being interrogated at the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) police station inside the Bannu Cantonment snatched an AK-47 from the police and opened fire. He then freed other suspects being held at the building and they took control of the compound. They also took several policemen hostage.

The situation is still tense 21 hours after the incident as a military operation is going on, officials said.

Two policemen were killed in the incident, sources said. Several others were reported injured.

Akram Khan Durrani, a former chief minister of the province, and sitting provincial minister Malik Shah Muhammad have reached Bannu to initiate talks with the militants.

Both Durrani and Muhammad hail from Bannu.

The terrorists have demanded to call a local religious figure, Maulana Ahmed Ullah, for negotiations with the security forces.

They also allowed a hostage to talk to their senior security officers on a mobile phone for coordination in the process.

The Special Service Group troops were put on alert for a rescue operation if negotiations failed.

Militants have demanded the security forces provide them with a helicopter to reach Afghanistan safely.

Mohammad Iqbal, the District Police Officer (DPO) Bannu, said that there was no attack from outside and one of the militants snatched the rifle from police during interrogation and neutralised the guards deployed at the building, The Express Tribune newspaper reported.

They are in control of the building and we have cordoned off the entire Bannu cantonment, he added.

About 30 militants were reportedly involved in the takeover.

The Internet services in the Bannu Cantonment have been suspended.

Banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in a statement said that several of its members were among those who took Bannu CTD Staff hostage.

It asked the government to shift prisoners either to South or North Waziristan where the TTP has hideouts/presence otherwise the army will be responsible for all damages.

Earlier, a video released by the TTP militants from inside the CTD compound claimed that nine police personnel were in their captivity.

The TTP, set up as an umbrella group of several militant outfits in 2007, last month called off a ceasefire agreed upon with the federal government in June and ordered its militants to stage terrorist attacks across the country.

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