Pakistan's army spokesman has confirmed three American soldiers were killed in a bomb blast in the northwest of the country.
Pakistan’s army spokesman has confirmed three American soldiers were killed in a bomb blast in the northwest of the country.
Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said one soldier was also wounded in Wednesday’s blast in Lower Dir close to the Afghan border.
Pakistani security officials earlier said the soldiers were in the region as part of a small, little-publicized U.S. mission to train members of the paramilitary Frontier Corps to better fight al-Qaida and Taliban militants.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
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SHAHI KOTO, Pakistan (AP) – Three U.S. soldiers traveling with Pakistan security force members were killed Wednesday in a roadside bombing near a girl’s school in northwest Pakistan, Pakistani security officials said. Other casualties included school children.
The three soldiers were in the region as part of a small, little-publicized U.S. mission to train members of the paramilitary Frontier Corps to better fight al-Qaida and Taliban militants, the officials said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.
The U.S. Embassy declined to comment. If the deaths are confirmed by American authorities, they would represent a major victory for militants close to the Afghan border who have been hit hard in recent months by a surge in U.S. missile strikes and a major Pakistani army offensive.
The blast hit a convoy close to the girls’ school, celebrating its opening in the Shahi Koto area of Lower Dir district.
At least seven people were killed, including a Pakistani soldier, officials said. Around 70 people were wounded, among them many school girls, said an army statement and police chief Mumtaz Zarin Khan. Some officials said three schoolchildren also were among the dead.
The bomb flattened much of the Koto Girls High School, leaving books, bags and pens strewn around.
“What was the fault of these innocent students?” said Mohammed Dawood, a resident who helped police dig the injured from the rubble.
Later, the bodies of three foreigners and two injured were flown by helicopter to Islamabad and then taken to the city’s Al-Shifa hospital, said a doctor there who asked his name not be used citing the sensitivity of the case. One of the injured had minor head wounds and the other had multiple fractures.
He said Pakistani army and intelligence officers were present and not allowing visitors into the building.
Lower Dir shares a border with Afghanistan and with the Swat Valley, a region the army last year retook from militant control in an offensive. As part of its offensive against militants in Swat, the Pakistani army has carried out operations in Lower Dir.
U.S. troops have been training Pakistan’s Frontier Corps since at least 2008. The corps is a major force in the northwest, but they have long been under-equipped and under-trained, making them a feeble front line against militants.
The training program was never officially announced, a sign of the sensitivity for the Pakistan’s government in allowing U.S. troops on its territory. Frontier Corps officials have said the course included classroom and field sessions. U.S. officials have said the program is a “train-the-trainer” program, and that the Americans are not carrying out operations.
Zada reported from Shahi Koto, and Ahmad from Islamabad. Associated Press writers Zarar Khan and Chris Brummitt contributed from Islamabad.