KHAR, Pakistan – A roadside bomb killed nine Pakistani security officers close to the Afghan border Wednesday, while two other soldiers died in a separate militant assault on a security post in the same area, officials said.
The bomb struck a convoy of paramilitary soldiers as it traveled along a road near Ghallani town in the Mohmand region just before sunset, said Zabid Khan, the top civilian administrator in the semiautonomous region. One passer-by was also killed, he said.
Mohmand has been the scene of sporadic army offensives over the last year that commanders said largely cleared the area of insurgents. It is 125 miles north of South Waziristan, where the army is undertaking a major offensive against the Taliban.
Some 12 hours earlier, dozens of militants armed with automatic weapons and rocket launchers attacked the security outpost, killing two soldiers and wounding three others, local government official Maqsood Khan said.
The army responded by shelling militant positions there, killing 10 suspected fighters, intelligence officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Pakistan is battling Taliban and Al Qaeda militants on several fronts in the northwest. The insurgents have responded with a rash of terror attacks they hope will weaken the army's resolve. A suicide car bomber attacked a crowded market in northwestern Pakistan on Tuesday, killing 26 people, the fourth such attack in about a month.
Pakistani officials have blamed such attacks on the Taliban, but the group has reportedly denied being behind at least some of the blasts, making it more difficult for the government to convert public anger into greater support for the war.
"I think the government itself is making these blasts, or the Taliban," Muzamal Khan, a man attending Wednesday's funeral for the victims of the market bombing, told AP Television News. "But the Taliban is saying we are not involved in these blasts, so it means the government is involved or foreign countries like India or Afghans who live here illegally or American spies."
Others blame the violence on the government's alliance with the United States, which supports the army offensive in South Waziristan because it is home to militants involved in attacks on Western troops across the border in Afghanistan.
"I think if foreign policy changes, and we finish our friendship with America and infidels and stop military operations which are going on in different places, then this bombing problem will solve itself," said Mulana Gohar Shah, another man attending Wednesday's funeral.