Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistan’s interior minister has identified an attack that killed one policeman in the capital Islamabad as “an incident of terrorism”, after initial reports indicated the shoot-out may have involved local criminals.
Speaking on Tuesday at the funeral of the police officer killed in the gun attack on a security checkpoint the night before, Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed said the attackers opened fire on the police officers in a targeted attack.
“This was not an issue of robbery or dacoity, it is purely an issue of terrorism,” he said.
Two police officers were also wounded in the attack, police authorities in Islamabad said in a statement. Two of the attackers were shot dead in the exchange of fire that followed the initial burst from the attackers, the statement said.
The AFP news agency quoted the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP, also known as the Pakistani Taliban) armed group as having taken responsibility for the attack.
“We are proud of these heroes, and our fighters will continue to follow in their footsteps,” AFP quoted the group as saying in a statement.
Interior Minister Ahmed warned of the possibility of further attacks in the heavily guarded Pakistani capital, where the federal government is based.
“This is a kind of signal that we have received that incidents of terrorism have started to happen in Islamabad, and this is the first incident of this year,” said Ahmed. “We need to stay very alert.”
Formed in 2007, the Pakistan Taliban is an umbrella organisation of armed groups from across Pakistan’s northwestern border areas with Afghanistan that seek to impose a strict interpretation of Islamic law on the country.
The Pakistan Taliban is allied with, but distinct from, the Afghan Taliban, with whom it fought against US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan during that country’s 21-year war.
The TTP waged war against Pakistan’s government and civilians, carrying out suicide attacks, bombings and targeted gun attacks across the country since its inception, including some of the deadliest attacks in Pakistan’s history.
In 2014, Pakistan’s military launched a security operation against the group in its then-stronghold of North Waziristan, successfully displacing the group’s rank and file and leadership into eastern Afghanistan.
Since 2017, the Pakistan Taliban’s operational capacity to carry out large-scale attacks has been diminished, but it has still done so sporadically, hitting both civilian and security forces targets.
In December, an Al Jazeera investigation found that elements of the Pakistan Taliban had been regrouping in its former strongholds of North and South Waziristan districts, with many fighters released from Afghan prisons after the Afghan Taliban took control of that country in mid-August.