Five killed in Pakistan violence

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The Independent Online

Gunmen ambushed a police patrol in Pakistan's volatile northwest today, killing four officers while a roadside bomb killed a member of another security unit elsewhere in the region.

Two officers died during the ambush on the outskirts of Peshawar city early Monday, while two others died later at a hospital from multiple bullet wounds, senior police official Nisar Khan said.

The roadside bomb targeted a vehicle of the Frontier Constabulary in the Bannu area, killing one and wounding seven constabulary officers, local hospital official Mohammad Jawed said.

One of the wounded was a senior constabulary officer, Bannu police chief Iqbal Marwat said.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for either attack, but Taliban militants in the region frequently target security forces.

The police were patrolling on a road that leads to the Khyber tribal region, an area that has witnessed numerous militant attacks because of its status as a supply route for U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Pakistan is in the midst of a major offensive against Taliban fighters in the northwestern Swat Valley and is in the early stages of an operation in the South Waziristan tribal region targeting the Pakistani Taliban chief, Baitullah Mehsud.

The US supports the offensives, saying Islamabad must eliminate militant safe havens for its own stability's sake as well as to lessen the threat those fighters pose to the war effort in neighboring Afghanistan.

The government's anti-Taliban campaign in the Swat Valley has driven some 2 million people from their homes, according to the United Nations. Thousands of the displaced have started returning home now that the military has declared the region cleared of militants. The government launched its official repatriation program last week.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who was in Islamabad Monday for meetings with senior Pakistani officials and visited a refugee camp north of the capital, praised Pakistan's response to the humanitarian crisis.

"I am very, very impressed with the manner in which this complicated operation has been handled," Solana told reporters.