PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN – Taliban militants have shot dead 21 Pakistani tribal police who they had kidnapped in raids on two camps outside Peshawar in the troubled northwest of the country, officials said Sunday.
Around 200 militants, armed with heavy weapons including mortars and rocket launchers, stormed the government paramilitary camps before dawn on Thursday, killing two security personnel and kidnapping 23.
Officials said the bodies of 21 security personnel had been discovered in the wilderness not far from the camps, their hands tied before they were shot. Two others — one wounded and one unhurt — were also found.
The camps are outside Peshawar, the main city of northwest Pakistan, close to the restive tribal areas that border Afghanistan, which are regarded as havens for Taliban and al-Qaida linked militants.
“We found 21 bullet-riddled bodies of security personnel a short while ago in an uninhabited area,” said local government official Naveed Akbar. “One was found alive but wounded and admitted to hospital, while another managed to escape.”
Gul Shehzad, another government official, said authorities received information just before midnight that some bodies were lying in the wilderness, within about 4 km of the camps. “The hands of soldiers were tied with rope before they were shot,” he said. He said Taliban militants had accepted the responsibility for the kidnappings.
In August, the Pakistani Taliban released a video showing what appeared to be the severed heads of a dozen soldiers, after the military said 15 troops had gone missing following fighting with militants in the Bajaur tribal district.
Also Sunday, a suicide bomber driving a vehicle packed with explosives rammed into a bus carrying Shiite Muslim pilgrims in southwest Pakistan, killing 17 people.
Government official Tufail Ahmed said over 20 people were wounded in the attack in Baluchistan Province’s Mastung district. The blast completely destroyed the bus that was hit and damaged a second bus carrying Shiites that was close by.
An eyewitness who was traveling in the second bus told Geo TV that the pilgrims were headed to Iran, a popular religious tourism destination.
There has been a surge in attacks in northwest Pakistan in the past two weeks, including a suicide bombing on a political meeting in Peshawar on Saturday that killed Bashir Bilour, the No. 2 politician in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.