Bomb kills seven soldiers in Pakistan

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The Independent Online

Suspected Taliban militants set off a roadside bomb that killed seven paramilitary soldiers today in a rugged tribal region of northwestern Pakistan, after the nation's president vowed to push on with an army offensive in a key insurgent stronghold until all the militants are wiped out.

The soldiers were traveling through the Khyber region, famed for the pass that is the main route for ferrying supplies to US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, when the bomb went off, said local official Ghulam Farooq Khan. The men died before they reached a hospital.

In another tribal region, suspected Taliban fighters blew up a six-room boys school early this morning, the latest in a long string of school bombings by fighters opposed to modern education. No one was inside when the explosives went off in a village in the Bajur tribal area , said Adalat Khan, a local official.

Pakistani jets, meanwhile, bombed three hideouts in the Orkazai tribal region of Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud, killing at least eight militants and wounding several others, intelligence officials said.

Access to the tribal areas, semi-autonoous regions where the Pakistani government has long had only minimal control, is heavily restricted, so independently verifying government reports is all but impossible.

Pakistan has been involved in an escalating fight with Taliban fighters. Two weeks ago, Pakistan launched a major offensive in South Waziristan, viewed as the main stronghold in the country of both Taliban and al-Qaida.

Officials insist that offensive will continue until every militant is wiped out, an apparent reaction to US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's warning that al-Qaida also need to be targeted.

President Asif Ali Zardari, speaking to members of his Pakistan People's Party, said yesterday that "there was no turning back ... until the complete elimination of the militants," according to a statement from his office.

Earlier this week, during a visit to Pakistan, Clinton said she found it "hard to believe" that no one in Pakistan's government knew where al-Qaida's leadership was hiding and that once the current offensive is finished, "the Pakistanis will have to go on to try to root out other terrorist groups, or we're going to be back facing the same threats."