Nine Pakistani troops killed in militant ambush

PESHAWAR, Pakistan Sun May 6, 2012 11:45pm IST

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PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - Militants in Pakistan's tribal badlands bordering Afghanistan ambushed a military convoy on Sunday morning, killing nine Pakistani troops.

Army officials said the convoy was passing through Amin Picket, a security outpost on a hilltop outside Miranshah in North Waziristan, when "dozens" of militants attacked the troops.

"Militants hiding there opened fire at the soldiers with AK-47 assault rifles and RPG," a senior Pakistan army official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

"Three gunship choppers were called in but the militants even fired rockets at the choppers."

Nine troops, including an officer were killed, and 12 more injured in the attack. The army official said the troops had retaliated and killed "a number of militants."

Tribesmen in Miranshah, the capital of North Waziristan and a known hotbed of militants, including the Taliban, al Qaeda and the Haqqani Network, said they saw army helicopter gunships pounding suspected militant positions in the town.

"As we were very close to the battlefield and could see from roofs of our houses, the security suffered heavy losses," said Razaullah Dawar, a local resident.

"Besides human losses, some of their heavy trucks and jeeps were burnt and were lying on the spot till evening."

It was not known exactly who attacked the convoy, but one security official, requesting anonymity, said the Pakistan Taliban were behind the attack.

A senior commander affiliated with Hafiz Gul Bahadur, a pro-government militant leader in North Waziristan, condemned the attack and denied involvement.

"We have a peace accord with the government and condemn the killing of Pakistani soldiers in Waziristan. We will continue following the peace agreement with the government," he said.

Pakistan has cut peace deals with several militant groups who do not attack Pakistani forces but who use Pakistani territory to stage attacks against NATO forces in Afghanistan.

A problematic U.S. ally, Pakistan has failed to break the back of the Taliban despite numerous crackdowns.

The Taliban mount suicide bombings, which often kill civilians, and shooting attacks on security forces in their campaign to topple the government.

(Writing by Chris Allbritton; editing by Andrew Roche)

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