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Pakistan Blast Kills Three U.S. Soldiers

Wednesday, 03 February 2010 10:05 AM

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A bomb blast in Pakistan claimed by the Taliban killed eight people Wednesday, including three US soldiers and children at the opening of a school just rebuilt after an Islamist attack.

The US soldiers, who the embassy said were training paramilitary troops, were travelling in a convoy with local troops, journalists and officials to the opening of the girls' school when the roadside bomb exploded.

It appears to be the first time US soldiers have been killed in this type of attack in Pakistan, a key ally on the frontline of the war on Al-Qaeda where Islamist militants have killed around 3,000 people since July 2007.

The US embassy condemned the "vicious terrorist bombing" which killed three Americans and wounded two others in northwest district of Lower Dir, where Pakistan last year launched an assault to drive out Taliban militants.

"The Americans were US military personnel in Pakistan to conduct training at the invitation of the Pakistan Frontier Corps," it added.

"They were in Lower Dir to attend the inauguration ceremony of a school for girls that had recently been renovated with US humanitarian assistance."

Pakistani military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas confirmed to AFP that the US soldiers were in Pakistan to train the Frontier Corps.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the bomb and alleged that the dead Americans belonged to US security company Blackwater Worldwide -- now known as Xe -- which has earned global notoriety over its activities in Iraq.

"We claim responsibility for the blast," Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Azam Tariq said in the call from an undisclosed location.

"The Americans killed were members of the Blackwater group. We know they are responsible for bomb blasts in Peshawar and other Pakistani cities."

Islamist networks in Pakistan routinely blame bomb attacks, which the authorities say were carried out by Taliban-linked factions, on Americans.

Pakistani officials said a Frontier Corps soldier and four schoolgirls also died in the attack in Koto village.

"We have four dead bodies. They are schoolgirls aged 10 to 15. We have received 65 injured, most of them are girls," said Mohammad Wakeel, chief doctor at the local hospital in Taimargara, the main town in Lower Dir.

The same school was blown up last year and Western groups have been working to promote girls' education in parts of the northwest, where Taliban-linked militants opposed to co-education have destroyed hundreds of schools.

Pakistani analysts said Wednesday's killing of American soldiers underscored the strengths of militant networks in the area, despite the military presence and last year's bloody offensive.

"The attack shows maybe they had some advance information that the convoy had some foreigners... and that the militants' intelligence is still active and this is a matter of concern," said retired intelligence officer Saad Khan.

Related article: US missile volley kills militants "The situation in the area is still not normal and it is not going to be over soon," the military analyst added.

Much of the instability stems from Pakistan's lawless tribal belt, which borders Lower Dir.

US officials call Pakistan's tribal belt the most dangerous place on Earth, rife with both homegrown Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters and other Islamist militant groups which fled the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

Late Tuesday, up to 10 unmanned US drone aircraft launched about 18 missiles on hideouts and training camps in five isolated settlements of the Dattakhel area in tribal North Waziristan, killing 31 people, mostly Islamist militants.

North Waziristan borders Afghanistan and is infested with Taliban insurgents, Al-Qaeda operatives and fighters with the Haqqani militant network.

Drone attacks have soared since US President Barack Obama made defeating Al-Qaeda and ending the war in Afghanistan a key plank of his foreign policy.

Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud has been a target of the drone attacks. A number of reports say that he died of injuries suffered in a January strike on North Waziristan, but the Taliban deny that he is dead.

Two US military personnel were killed in the September 2008 truck bombing of the Marriott hotel in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

© Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Wednesday, 03 February 2010 10:05 AM
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