22 Police Officers Kidnapped in Attacks on Pakistani Posts

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- The Pakistani Taliban kidnapped at least 22 policemen after coordinated attacks on multiple security check posts in northwestern Pakistan on Thursday, Pakistani officials said. Two policemen were reported killed in related gun battles with the militants.

The attacks came before dawn on the outskirts of Peshawar, the insurgency-riven capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, which has seen a sharp rise in militant actions recently.

"The militants attacked three posts on Peshawar's boundary with the semiautonomous tribal region past midnight with mortars and heavy weapons," a security official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "The militants burned down the posts and also seized police weapons."

Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the provincial information minister, said security forces had mounted a search operation to recover the kidnapped policemen. Another government official said the authorities had also drawn in the help of tribal elders to hold talks with the militants to secure the men's release. "We would make all efforts to recover them as soon as possible," the official said.

Peshawar lies at the edge of the tribal regions, where the Taliban maintain several hide-outs for planning and mounting attacks on urban centers.

On Dec. 22, Bashir Ahmad Bilour, a senior anti-Taliban politician, was killed in a suicide attack after he addressed a political gathering in the Qissa Khwani Bazaar of Peshawar. Militants also attacked the Peshawar airport on Dec. 15, when five of them battled with security forces for several hours in an unsuccessful effort to storm the sprawling facility.

On Thursday, Pakistanis commemorated the fifth anniversary of the death of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in a militant attack in 2007. At least 200,000 people gathered in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh in Sindh Province at the Bhutto family's ancestral graveyard.

Top leadership of the governing Pakistan Peoples Party, including President Asif Ali Zardari, Ms. Bhutto's husband, spoke at the memorial. But making one of the more notable appearances was Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, 24, the only son of Ms. Bhutto, whose speech was widely seen as the formal start of his political career.

Though Bilawal Zardari is too young to run for office in the coming general elections, expected in April or May, he has long been the heir apparent to the Bhutto family political dynasty within the party.

In his speech, he said his party stood as a "wall against the terrorists," in contrast with politicians who have seemed reluctant to condemn militancy. "We have chosen a very difficult path," he said. "Our path is the path of democracy, which Benazir taught us to walk on."

Salman Masood reported from Islamabad, and Ismail Khan from Peshawar, Pakistan. Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud contributed reporting.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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