Al Jazeera has obtained exclusive footage that appears to show the group vowing revenge for Osama bin Laden’s death.
|The checkpoint, which came under attack, is close to Khyber region, where Taliban fighters are known to hide out [EPA]|
About 100 fighters have attacked a security checkpoint near the Pakistani city of Peshawar, sparking a three-hour clash that killed two police officers and 17 gunmen, police said.
“They were armed with AK-47 rifles and rockets. We successfully repulsed the first attack. They attacked again and then there was an exchange of fire that lasted for about two-and-a-half hours,” Abdul Jabbar, a security official, told Reuters on Wednesday.
The midnight attack on the Sangu Mera checkpoint comes amid Taliban threats to avenge the May 2 US raid that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden near the Pakistani capital Islamabad.
However, it is more likely tied to the Pakistani military’s offensives against anti-government fighters in the country’s tribal belt bordering Afghanistan. Pakistan’s army has carried out anti-insurgent operations in six of its seven tribal districts.
Al Jazeera correspondent Kamal Hyder, reporting from Islamabad, said: “There is fear of renewed offensive by the Pakistan Taliban. The way they have been able to strike, from Karachi to Peshawar, shows they are still a force and a problem for the Pakistani government and the security forces.”
Sangu Mera lies just along the border of Khyber tribal region, one of the areas where Taliban and other fighters have hideouts and where the Pakistani army has staged multiple operations.
The checkpoint is about 10km away from Peshawar, a strategically important city along the way to Afghanistan.
In a similar incident on Tuesday in Quetta, the capital of restive southwestern Baluchistan province, Pakistani troops killed five attackers including three women after a firefight.
Officials said the group was trying to carry out an attack on a security checkpoint. Paramilitary sources said they had hand grenades and bombs strapped to their bodies.
The Al Jazeera correspondent said: “There have been some doubts cast over the whole incident in Quetta. There are reports that those people were not armed. There are questions whether the paramilitary forces overreacted and used excessive firepower. Details are still coming out.”
Quetta is believed to be a base for the Afghan Taliban leadership.
The Pakistani Taliban, who are close to al-Qaeda and have vowed to avenge bin Laden’s death, said that their suicide bombers killed at least 76 people last week at a paramilitary academy in the northwestern town of Charsadda.