Police killed 10 gunmen from Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a faction of the Pakistani Taliban, in an early morning shootout Saturday in Lahore, officials said, with several militants tied to a February bombing in the eastern city dying in the skirmish.
The gunfight erupted as authorities were escorting five members from the Pakistani Taliban to recover weapons and explosives from a depot on Lahore’s outskirts when they were ambushed by gunmen aiming to free the group, said a spokesman with Punjab’s Counter Terrorism Department.
“Ten terrorists from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaat-ul-Ahrar were killed during an operation with the Counter Terrorism Department in Punjab including the accused handler of the February 13 Lahore blast,” said the official.
According to the spokesman the firefight ensued for half an hour with at least 10 gunmen killed.
“When firing stopped 10 militants were found dead,” he said in a statement.
The skirmish comes days after seven people were killed and 19 wounded during a Taliban suicide attack targeting a census team in the city.
Lahore has been on edge since a wave of violent attacks across Pakistan in February killed 130 people and shook citizens emboldened by growing security.
The renewed violence has dented optimism after the country appeared to be making strong gains in its decade-and-a-half long war on militancy, with analysts speaking of a militant resurgence.
The spate of attacks has ratcheted up tensions with neighboring Afghanistan, which some Pakistani officials accuse of sheltering Pakistani Taliban militants. Afghanistan’s government, in its turn, accuses Islamabad of aiding the Afghan Taliban, a charge Pakistan denies.