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Pakistan launches operation to free officers kidnapped by TTP

Security forces storm an anti-terror center in a remote northwestern district to free several security officials taken hostage two days ago.

Pakistani security forces stormed an anti-terror center in a remote northwest district to free several security officials who were taken hostage two days ago by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) armed group.

The fate of the hostages inside remained unclear as forces on Tuesday were still seeking to clear the entire compound in the Bannu district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which borders Afghanistan.

Security sources told the Reuters news agency that forces have retaken the center, although the army or government have not yet issued a statement.

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Six security agents and several detainees were inside the center, said the sources, who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

“The operation is being concluded and there is no more resistance… the security forces have entered the compound,” a security source said.

He said details about the hostages and the number of victims will be released after the cleanup operation is complete.

About 20 TTP fighters, also known as Pakistani Taliban for their association with Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban, took refuge in the center, according to reports.

“All options failed and the terrorists refused to release innocent people, so we decided to use force,” a senior security official told the news agency on condition of anonymity.

Reporting from the capital Islamabad, Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder said loud explosions were heard as black smoke billowed from the compound following the security operation.

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Hyder said the TTP fighters were demanding safe passage into Afghanistan.

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“They wanted to take the hostages with them and promised they would release them once they were safe and in a safe area,” he said.

Pakistani authorities began talks on Monday to resolve the standoff with the fighters.

The TTP arose to force the government to enforce its strict interpretation of Islamic laws in the country, to secure the release of its members from government custody and a reduction in the military presence in former tribal areas.

The group has intensified attacks across Pakistan since announcing the end of a Taliban-brokered ceasefire with the Afghan government last month.

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