Suspected militants in a Pakistani tribal region on the Afghan border ambushed a convoy of vehicles being escorted by security forces today, killing 18 people, including two women, witnesses said. Militants opened fire on civilian vehicles in the convoy as it headed to the main northwestern city of Peshawar from Parachinar, the main town of the Pashtun-dominated Kurram region where the army has killed nearly 100 militants in operations in the past few months.
"Militants attacked the last two vehicles in the convoy with automatic weapons near Char Khel village, killing 18 people," said Jamshed Tori, who was also wounded in the attack. A tribal leader, Mussrat Bangash, confirmed the toll and said two women were among the dead. Militants have gone on the offensive again after a recent lull in violence, challenging government assertions that a major assault in the militant stronghold of South Waziristan along with smaller operations in other regions had dealt a major blow to insurgents.
The road linking Kurram with Peshawar often remains closed because of militants and Pakistan army operations, forcing people to take a circuitous route through Afghanistan to travel to the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province and its capital, Peshawar. But that route is not safe. At least 11 people were killed in a similar attack last week when a passenger bus heading to Peshawar was attacked inside Afghanistan.
Meanwhile two Nato soldiers have died in a bomb attack in southern Afghanistan, the international alliance said today. The soldiers, part of Nato's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), were killed yesterday by an improvised explosive device or IED, a weapon blamed for the majority of casualties among foreign forces. "Two ISAF service members died following an improvised explosive device attack in southern Afghanistan yesterday," it said. The nationalities of the soldiers was not disclosed. With the last deaths, 373 foreign soldiers have lost their lives in conflict in Afghanistan since the start of this year, according to a tally by the independent website: www.icasualties.org.
* With agencies