Taliban militants have threatened to kill all 29 hostages they hold captive if the government fails to withdraw troops from Hangu, a town in the restive North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan.
The 29 officials, kidnapped by the militants before the military operation commenced in Hangu on Wednesday, were at a “safe place”, a Taliban spokesman told the Dawn daily on Saturday.
“As soon as they (militants) receive orders from the central leadership, they would start killing them (hostages) one by one,” the newspaper said quoting Maulvi Haider, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan spokesman.
He ruled out any chance of the officials’ release if the provincial government failed to meet the demands of the Taliban.
The newspaper said security forces secured militant-held areas in the region without any resistance on Saturday.
Pakistan’s army said on Sunday it had killed 15 militants and detained 60 others in a five-day operation in the country’s northwest.
Security forces used mortars and helicopter gunships to pound militant hideouts in nearby areas after the Taliban attacked a paramilitary fort in Torawari area of Hangu injuring three Frontier Corps personnel overnight, officials were quoted as saying by TV channels.
Gunships also struck Taliban positions at three places in Kurram tribal agency, which borders Hangu district. Reports said a civilian was injured in the attacks.
The army has deployed 1,500 troops backed by artillery, tanks and gunship helicopters for the operation, codenamed Zarb-e-Kaleem, launched on Wednesday after the Taliban killed 15 paramilitary personnel at Zargari in Hangu.
Military spokesman Major-General Athar Abbas said that 15 militants had been killed and 60 arrested so far. Five security personnel were also wounded in the fighting, he told Geo News.
The government has been sending hundreds of soldiers to the area to fight militants since the two sides agreed to a new series of peace deals this year.
The fighting resumed as Pakistan faces mounting pressure from the US to take stronger action against Taliban in its tribal areas, which the militants use as launching pads for attacks against NATO and American troops in southern Afghanistan.