ISLAMABAD, Feb. 18: A day after an Islamic State group (IS) bomber killed nearly 80 pilgrims at Pakistan's most famous Sufi shrine in Sindh, security forces claimed to have eliminated around 100 militants in a countrywide crackdown.
The suicide blast at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar was one of the deadliest ever in Pakistan and came after several other extremist strikes earlier this week despite the army's ongoing offensive against militants. Following Thursday's attack on the 13th century shrine, army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa pledged, "Each drop of the nation's blood shall be avenged, and avenged immediately. No more restraint for anyone."
The military also launched a search-and-strike operation in Khyber Agency's Shalman near the Pak-Afghan border, using heavy artillery. Many casualties might have taken place there, security officials said.
Of the 100-odd terrorists killed on Friday, 46 were accounted for, according to the army's Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) release on Friday.
Paramilitary Sindh Rangers claimed to have killed 18 terrorists in overnight operations in the province. Of these, seven were killed in a shootout on a highway near Kathor when troops were returning from Sehwan.
An official release said that 13 terrorists were killed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the northwest. Four terrorists were slain in Lower Orakzai of Orakzai Agency. Eleven were killed in Karachi, according to the Rangers. Government said scores of suspects were also arrested.
Weapons and hand grenades were found on the slain terrorists. Political observers said the army crackdown seemed a predictable response. "When you (army) have information about the presence of terrorists, why don't you act before they strike?" asked Mazhar Abbas, a security analyst.
Of the eight terror attacks since February 13, when a cameraman of a news channel, Samaa, was killed in Karachi, 13 people were killed on Monday and more than 70 injured when a bomb ripped through a rally on Mall Road in Lahore.
The same day, bombings were carried out in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan, and in South Waziristan bordering Afghanistan. On Tuesday, two members of a bomb disposal squad were killed trying to dismantle a bomb in Quetta. On Wednesday, five people were killed when a suicide bomber struck in Mohmand tribal region.
The same day, a suicide attack on a court van killed its driver and injured four judges. Many of these attack were carried out by Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a banned group linked to Pakistani Taliban. Following the military operation in North Waziristan, many militants, especially those associated with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, moved to eastern Afghanistan, the area considered outside the control of Afghan government.
Many of these militants later joined the Islamic State terror group when it began recruitment in the region. In the past, when terror attacks have taken place in Pakistan, Islamabad has pointed fingers at Kabul and blamed elements in the Afghan intelligence agency and India's R&AW.
Kabul has accused Pakistan of discriminating between "good" and "bad" Taliban and blamed Pakistan for supporting terror groups on its soil for attacks in Afghanistan and India. They also point at the killing of a number of top terrorists, including Osama bin Laden and former Afghan Taliban chief, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, in US strikes inside Pakistan.(TOI)
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