Three US soldiers involved in the training of Pakistan’s paramilitary Frontier Corps were among nine people killed in a roadside bombing near a girls’ school in Pakistan’s insurgency-infested Northwest Frontier Province.
A massive bomb was detonated by the Taliban as the US soldiers traveled to attend the opening of a girls’ school in the village of Koto in Lower Dir, a settled district that borders Swat. Three children, two civilians, and a Frontier Corps official were also killed in the blast, while another 65 people, including many young girls and two US soldiers, were wounded in the attack, Geo News reported. A school was also damaged.
The US Embassy in Islamabad confirmed the attack, which it described as a “vicious terrorist bombing.”
“The Americans were U.S. military personnel in Pakistan to conduct training at the invitation of the Pakistan Frontier Corps,” the Islamabad embassy statement read. “They were in Lower Dir to attend the inauguration ceremony of a school for girls that had recently been renovated with U.S. humanitarian assistance.”
The US Central Command, or CENTCOM, the military command responsible for operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, also confirmed that three US soldiers were killed, and said they were in Pakistan at the request of the government.
“The service members were assigned to the Office of the Defense Representative, Pakistan to conduct civil affairs-related training at the invitation of the Government of Pakistan,” the CENTCOM statement said.
The Taliban immediately called in after the blast to take credit. According to Dawn, Tariq Azam, the top spokesman for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, said by telephone from an undisclosed location: “We claim responsibility for the blast.” He also attempted to link the dead US soldiers to the security company formerly called Blackwater, alleging that the soldiers were members of the company and that the company was “responsible for bomb blasts in Peshawar and other Pakistani cities.”
“We have warned we will take revenge and today we have avenged the deaths of innocent people,” Azam continued.
According to a Pakistani journalist traveling in the convoy, the US soldiers were dressed in civilian clothes and “Pakistani military guides referred to the foreigners traveling with them as journalists,” The Associated Press reported.
The US military has deployed Special Forces and other soldiers to serve as trainers to the Frontier Corps, the locally raised paramilitary organization that is on the front lines against the Taliban. The deployment of US soldiers in Pakistan has been a controversial issue, and the soldiers are not supposed to conduct military operations alongside the Frontier Corps units.
Last year, the Pakistani Army and the Frontier Corps carried out a military operation in Dir and neighboring Swat to dislodge the Taliban. The operation began in May 2009. In the fall, the Pakistani military claimed to have defeated the Taliban in Swat and Dir, but the military is still conducting sweeps in the region.
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