Officials Say Bomb Kills 6 Pakistani Soldiers

ISLAMABAD -- A roadside bomb killed six soldiers Friday in a Pakistani tribal region where the military had declared victory over Islamist insurgents after a months-long offensive, security officials said.

The blast hit a vehicle carrying the Frontier Corps paramilitary troops as it traveled through the Yakh Kandao area of the Orakzai tribal region, said the two officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record to media. A lieutenant colonel was among the six killed, while three other soldiers were wounded.

The Pakistani army has carried out a series of offensives against insurgent groups in its tribal belt bordering Afghanistan. Friday's bombing was a sign that militants have been able to regroup despite the sustained military campaigns.

The operations have been praised by the United States, which believes the tribal regions are filled with militants involved in attacks on U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan.

The offensive in Orakzai came on the heels of an operation against the Pakistani Taliban in the South Waziristan tribal area.

Many militants in South Waziristan were believed to have fled north to Orakzai, though the top Pakistani Taliban leaders are believed to be in North Waziristan, an area the Pakistani army has resisted attacking so far despite U.S. pleas.

For months, the military pounded Orakzai with airstrikes, eventually staging a ground operation as well. The offensive intensified in March, with the reported daily death tolls of suspected militants sometimes in the dozens.

In June, the Pakistani army declared victory over the Taliban in Orakzai, saying the tens of thousands of civilians forced to flee could expect to return home soon. But that declaration appeared premature -- fighting was reported in the days afterward, and civilian returns have been limited.

The Pakistani army has at times declared victory in certain conflict zones, only to see fighting resume. The pattern indicates that the military has struggled to hold areas after initially clearing them.