Taliban attacks Pakistan hospital in effort to free associates
A hospital in Dera Ismail Khan in north-west Pakistan has been caught up in a prison raid by the Taliban, in which 13 people have been killed.
The insurgents are claiming to have freed as many as 250 inmates, many of whom are believed to be powerful militants, in an attack that began shortly before midnight local time (8pm GMT) on Monday.
Up to 100 members of the Taliban were involved in an assault that was marked by hours of gunfire and massive explosions, and there have been 21 casualties, officials say. The forces were able to completely overwhelm the local police, destroying a police vehicle and blasting down the prison walls with mortar bombs in the process, as well as killing five officers and wounding nine others.
The attack prompted the arrival of armed troops to the area, who surrounded the prison and moved into the facility at around 5am. The Taliban infiltrated and occupied the prison, as well as occupying the hospital, a girls’ school, and homes on all sides of the facility. A security guard was shot and killed as they entered the hospital and opened fire with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.
The raid came on the day parliament was electing a new president, and serves as an affront to the government, highlighting Pakistan’s inability to deal with the Taliban. The attack’s similarities in nature to a jailbreak in the nearby city of Bannu in April 2012 have also provoked fears that raids are becoming all too common and easy for the Taliban, as they seek to ransack and destroy to free prisoners, as opposed to negotiating their release through hostage-taking as they have done in the past.
A curfew is now in effect in Dera Ismail Khan as police track down the escaped convicts. Katherine Houreld, a correspondent for Reuters news agency, said it had been a “very sophisticated attack – they blew the electricity line, they breached the walls and they set ambushes for reinforcements” making it difficult for the authorities to act quickly as they try and prevent the escapees from reaching the mountainous tribal areas of South Waziristan, which serves as the Taliban’s headquarters.