Pakistani Militants Overwhelm Village Near Volatile Afghan Border
28 March 2007
A large force of well-armed militants has overwhelmed a Pakistani village near the country's volatile border with Afghanistan. The militants killed at least one security official and kidnapped a local school principal. From Islamabad, VOA Correspondent Benjamin Sand reports officials are concerned that local and foreign militants are gaining control over parts of Pakistan's remote tribal areas.
Local residents say as many as 500 militants launched the pre-dawn raid in the town of Tank, in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province.
The attackers launched mortars and rocket-propelled grenades at a local police station and kidnapped a school principal before leaving the town.
Major General Wahid Arshad, a military spokesman, says the overnight battle lasted several hours, and both sides suffered casualties.
"There was fighting between the police and these people," he said. "They attacked the police station, they also burned a couple of banks and the national savings center."
He says the attack was apparently a response to clashes outside a local boy's school earlier this week, which left at least two suspected militants dead.
Arshad and other Pakistani officials say the militants, who are apparently Pakistanis themselves, were trying to recruit children as suicide bombers when the police intervened.
Officials say security forces have regained control of the town, and are actively pursuing the militants in the surrounding countryside.
There is no word on the principal's condition. The Associated Press quotes an unnamed militant as saying the educator is being questioned to see if he alerted police about the militants' recruiting efforts.
The violence is fueling growing concerns Islamist militants have taken the upper hand in the fight to gain control over Pakistan's rugged tribal areas.
Hundreds of Taleban and al-Qaida militants are also believed to be hiding out in the isolated region, which runs along the Afghan border.
Both U.S. and Afghan officials say Taleban insurgents have been massing inside Pakistan, and could be about to launch a major new offensive into Afghanistan.
Pakistan has deployed about 80,000 troops in the area in an effort to contain militant activity there, but the activity shows little sign of abating.
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