Army officer killed in Pakistan attack

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The Independent Online

A pair of gunmen on a motorbike killed a soldier and a high-ranking army officer in the Pakistani capital today, officials said, the latest strike against security forces as the military wages a major anti-Taliban offensive in the northwest.

The assault in Islamabad was part of a wave of bloodshed that has killed more than 170 people in Pakistan over the past three weeks and pushed the military into launching a long-anticipated ground offensive in South Waziristan tribal region six days ago.

The offensive is considered a critical test of nuclear-armed Pakistan's campaign against Islamist extremists aiming to overthrow the state and involved in attacks on Western forces in neighbouring Afghanistan.

The gunmen today fired on an army jeep in a residential area, police official Zaffar Abbas said.

A soldier and a brigadier - a high-ranking army officer - died, while the soldier driving the car was wounded, said Waseem Khawja, a hospital official.

Footage on private Express TV channel showed the bullet holes splattered on the green jeep's windshield.

No group immediately claimed responsibility, but the Pakistani Taliban, the target of the offensive, have said they were behind several recent attacks on security forces, including a siege of the army's headquarters.

The military is advancing on multiple fronts in South Waziristan, one of the places al Qaida chief Osama bin Laden is rumoured to use as a hideout. Over the past few days, they have been fighting for the hometown of Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud.

The fight for Kotkai is strategically important because it lies on the way to the major militant base of Sararogha.