Suicide bomber attacks police station in northwest Pakistan, killing 23 officers and wounding 32

An offshoot of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, one of the deadliest in recent months in the country

Pakistani security officials stand guard at a checkpoint in Quetta, amid increased security after a deadly suicide bombing targeting Pakistani soldiers in Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistan, 12 December 2023
Pakistani security officials stand guard at a checkpoint in Quetta, amid increased security after a deadly suicide bombing in Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistan, December 12, 2023.FAYYAZ AHMED (EFE)

A suicide bomber detonated his explosive-laden vehicle at a police station’s main gate in northwestern Pakistan early Tuesday, killing at least 23 troops, wounding 32 and causing a part of the building to collapse, authorities said.

The attack — one of the deadliest in recent months in Pakistan — also damaged businesses and shops nearby. A newly formed militant group — Tehreek-e-Jihad Pakistan, believed to be an offshoot of the Pakistani Taliban — claimed responsibility for the attack.

The military and local police said six other attackers were also involved in the assault at the police station, triggering an hourslong shootout before all six were killed.

Some of the wounded officers were said to be in critical condition, and there were fears the death toll would rise. Mohammad Adnan, a senior police official, said the casualties were taken to a local hospital.

Later, the army said in a statement that “troops killed 27 insurgents” in multiple operations in the same region Tuesday.

The attack targeted Daraban police station in the city of Dera Ismail Khan, according to local officer Kamal Khan. The city is located in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which borders Afghanistan and which is a former stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban.

Khan said a large number of security forces from across Pakistan were recently deployed at the station for intelligence operations against militants in the area in coordination with the local police.

The militant offshoot said in its claim of responsibility that it targeted officers who were at the police station. Mehrban Khan, who owns a hotel next to the police station, described the scene, saying he saw “many army soldiers killed and wounded.”

Pakistani President Arif Alvi denounced the attack and expressed his condolences to the families of those killed, saying “their sacrifices would not go to waste” and that such attacks would not weaken the resolve of security forces.Pakistan’s caretaker Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti also denounced the attack as an “act of terrorism.”

In separate developments Tuesday, two soldiers and four insurgents were killed in a shootout in the northwestern town of Kulachi, the military said.

The surge in militant attacks on Pakistani security forces — many by the Pakistani Taliban — have strained relations between Islamabad and Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers in Kabul. Islamabad says the Pakistani Taliban have become emboldened since their Afghan Taliban allies’ takeover of the neighboring country in 2021. Many Pakistani Taliban members are living openly in Afghanistan, and Pakistan wants their extradition.

Later Tuesday, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry summoned a Taliban-appointed representative from Kabul to protest the latest attack in Dera Ismail Khan.

The ministry said it asked the Taliban envoy to convey to his superiors in Kabul that Islamabad demands they “fully investigate and take stern action against perpetrators” of the attack and also “publicly condemn the terrorist incident at the highest level.”

Islamabad also asked for the Afghan Taliban’s “verifiable actions against terrorist groups and their sanctuaries.”

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has also seen a rise in violence with deadly incursions by militants this year. In January, at least 101 people were killed, mostly police officers, when a suicide bomber disguised as a policeman attacked a mosque in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

Dera Ismail Khan is located near South Waziristan, a former militant sanctuary. Pakistan’s army carried out multiple operations there after a 2014 attack on an army-run school thet killed more than 150 people, mostly school children.

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