Monday, November 9, 2009

Blast kills four Pakistan troops in Taliban area

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A roadside bomb attack killed four Pakistani soldiers in a Taliban stronghold where troops backed by fighter jets and helicopter gunships are pressing a major operation, officials said Monday.

The improvised explosive device (IED) -- of the type deployed by the Taliban to such deadly effect against US and NATO troops across the border in Afghanistan -- blew up late Sunday in the town of Makin, the officials said.

"Four soldiers died while two sustained injuries. A third soldier was wounded in a clash in the Ladha area where three militants were killed," one military official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Another military official confirmed the death toll and incident.

Pakistan sent 30,000 troops into battle against the Tehreek-e-Taliban in South Waziristan, launching a three-pronged offensive on October 17 in a bid to crush the homegrown militant movement's strongholds in the district.

Makin and Ladha are two of the most notorious Taliban-held towns in South Waziristan and are close to where former Tehreek-e-Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud had a house, which the military said Friday had been demolished.

A US missile attack killed Mehsud on August 5 in South Waziristan, part of the border area with Afghanistan that Washington calls the most dangerous place in the world because of an abundance of Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters.

The military says around 480 militants and 42 soldiers have been killed since the offensive began, but security officials and analysts say that many Islamist rebels have simply fled rather than staying to fight.

The military provides the only regular information coming from the frontlines. None of the details can be verified because communication lines are down and journalists and aid workers barred from the area.

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