About a dozen armed militants attacked a Pakistani police checkpoint on a northwestern highway before dawn Wednesday, killing three police officers and a civilian before fleeing the scene, authorities said.

The attack on the Lachi checkpoint on the Indus Highway in Kohat, a district in the restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province bordering Afghanistan, triggered a shootout, said Jabir Khan, a local police official. Officers returned fire and a search was underway for the assailants, he added.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but suspicion is likely to fall on the outlawed Pakistani Taliban, who often target security forces across the country, especially in the northwest near the Afghan border.


The attack was the third on police in the past three days in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, bringing to 12 the number of officers killed. On Tuesday, suspected militants shot and killed two police officers assigned to escort polio workers in the district of Bannu. Another two officers were also wounded in that attack, which targeted a nationwide anti-polio drive.

On Monday, a roadside bombing that targeted police assigned to protect polio vaccination teams killed seven officers in Mamund, a former stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban near the Afghan border.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack, although the Islamic State group issued a competing claim. Both militant groups are active in the region and have issued competing claims in the past.

Also on Wednesday according to a military statement, two soldiers and two militants were killed in an exchange of fire in Lakki Marwat, a district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The slain militants were from the Pakistani Taliban who are known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP. They are a separate group but allied with the Afghan Taliban, who took over Afghanistan in August 2021, following the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces from the country. The takeover emboldened the TTP, who often carry out attacks near the Afghan border and elsewhere in the country.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, gunmen opened fire on a car carrying local politician Kaleem Ullah, police said. He was campaigning for a seat in the provincial assembly in the Feb. 8 election from the North Waziristan district. Ullah was killed along with two associates, police said.

It was the first such election-related violence in the country ahead of the vote.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has also seen a rise in violence, with deadly incursions by militants last year. In January 2023, at least 101 people were killed, mostly police officers, when a suicide bomber disguised as a policeman attacked a mosque in the northwestern city of Peshawar.