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Huge amount of militants attack Pakistan checkpoint

Two policemen have been killed and five others wounded in a Taliban attack on a police checkpost in Peshawar

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Scores of Islamist militants armed with rifles and rocket launchers attacked a Pakistani police checkpoint before dawn Wednesday, killing two officers and wounding five others, police said.

There was no confirmation of casualties among the militants because police said the attackers fled after the furious shootout, which took officers an hour to fend off in the suburbs of the northwestern city of Peshawar.

The checkpost in Sarband lies next to Khyber, part of Pakistan’s militant-infested tribal belt on the Afghan border where routine US missile strikes kill Taliban and Al-Qaeda operatives.

Police said they repelled an initial attack at around midnight (1900 GMT Tuesday), but another group of 70 Taliban fighters armed with guns and rocket launchers again laid siege before dawn.

It took police about an hour to fend off each attack, senior police officer Mohammad Ijaz Khan told AFP.

“Two of our policemen were martyred and five wounded,” Khan said, adding that the attackers threw hand grenades and fired rockets at the checkpoint.

He said the attackers came from the direction of Khyber and fled back in the same direction after staging what appeared to be a carefully planned hit under cover of night.

“They travelled in vehicles towards the checkpost, then left the vehicles in the tribal area and reached the checkpost on foot using ill-frequented routes.”

Police said the assailants were either from Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Taliban faction or local warlord Mangal Bagh’s extremist group Lashkar-e-Islam, both of which have a presence in Khyber.

Pakistani government forces have been fighting Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants in the northwest for years, and thousands of soldiers have lost their lives in a conflict that many in Pakistan see as America’s war.

Islamabad was an ally of the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan, but sided with the United States after the September 11, 2001 attacks and Khyber is now a key transit point for supplies for NATO troops based in Afghanistan.

The country has received around $20 billion from the United States in the past decade, but its troops have been unable to put down a homegrown insurgency in the northwest despite waging numerous offensives in much of the tribal belt.

A covert US operation that killed Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani garrison town just two hours’ drive from Islamabad on May 2 has raised serious questions about whether anyone in Pakistan was sheltering the Al-Qaeda leader.

Although the army has launched campaigns against homegrown militants, the United States also wants it to crack down on groups who use Pakistani territory as a sanctuary to attack foreign forces across the border in Afghanistan.

In Pakistan’s province of Baluchistan, which borders Afghanistan and Iran in the southwest, sectarian killers on Wednesday shot dead four Shiite Muslims and a passer-by in the regional capital Quetta, police said.

The victims, local merchants from the ethnic Hazara community, were driving on the city’s outskirts when two attackers on a motorbike ambushed them with a volley of Kalashinkov fire, the police said.

Six people were also wounded in the attack.

“It was a sectarian incident. The target was Shiite men. Five people including four Shiites were killed,” police official Jamil Kakar told AFP.

No one claimed responsibility for the killings, but Baluchistan suffers periodic sectarian violence between the Shiite minority and Sunni Muslim majority, as well as a regional insurgency demanding political autonomy.

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