Pakistan says 5 militants killed in shootout; 2 arrested

Pakistani security forces said Saturday that five suspected militants were killed in an overnight raid in the country’s northwest, and that two other militants were arrested in a separate operation.

Senior counter-terrorism officer Tahir Khan said the shootout took place at a compound in the working-class suburb of Mathra near Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. He said the militants belonged to a banned group and that security forces found suicide vests, sub-machine guns and other weapons at the scene.

Two militant commanders from the Sajna group of the Pakistani Taliban, known as Tehrik-e-Taliban, were captured in a second Friday-night raid, according to counter-terrorism officer Mohammad Ajmal. The operation took place in Tank district, which serves as a gateway to the mountainous South Waziristan district, a former militant stronghold.

Pakistan has carried out a number of operations in the country’s rugged northwest in recent years. The government has repeatedly claimed the areas were cleared of insurgents, but violence there has continued.

Militant groups in northwest Pakistan are often interlinked with those across the border in Afghanistan. That makes the Pakistani government’s progress at reining in terror critical, particularly as the U.S. is setting the stage for signing a peace deal with the Afghan Taliban next week.

Terror attacks in Pakistan dropped by more than 85% over the last decade, from nearly 2,000 attacks in 2009 to fewer than 250 in 2019, according to Pakistani think tanks.