MIRAN SHAH, Pakistan – Assailants armed with rockets and assault rifles attacked a newly built checkpoint near the Afghan border in Pakistan before dawn Saturday, killing all eight security forces, officials said.
Hours after the attack, helicopter gunships fired on a home along the Pakistan-Afghan border, 30 miles west of the checkpoint, killing eight people and wounding several others, local residents said.
The army could not immediately confirm the incident, and it is not immediately clear if the shelling and the attack were linked.
The checkpoint attack happened in a village near Miran Shah, the main town in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal region where Pakistan has deployed thousands of troops and security forces in an effort to flush out remnants of the Taliban, al-Qaida and their local supporters.
All eight soldiers guarding the checkpoint were killed, said a senior security official on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Another security official in the region, who also didn’t want to be named, told The Associated Press by phone that the slain troops had moved to the new checkpoint just hours before the attack.
In the helicopter attack, four women and four children were among the wounded and were taken to a hospital in Miran Shah, said a resident, who didn’t want to be named. Residents claimed a U.S. helicopter was involved in the attack, but the Pakistan military also uses American-made helicopters provided by Washington.
The checkpoint was set up this week as part of Pakistan’s efforts to stop insurgents from sneaking into Pakistan or going back to
Afghanistan, where U.S. forces have been trying to root out insurgents.
Pakistan is a key ally of the United States in its war on terror and killed or captured scores of terror suspects and their local supporters in northern Pakistan after the Sept. 11 attacks.
The rebels often target security forces in retaliation.
The latest attack on security forces came in the same region where al-Qaida operative Hamza Rabia was killed in December in what Pakistani officials said was an explosion caused by bomb-making activities.
But local residents said Rabia died in a missile attack and parts of what appeared to be a missile were found at the site. Neither Pakistani nor American officials have confirmed that version of the incident.
Rabia gained prominence after the arrest of al-Qaida’s suspected No. 3 Abu Farraj al-Libbi in Pakistan in May.
Al-Libbi — who twice tried to assassinate Pakistan’s President Gen. Pervez Musharraf for aiding Washington’s war on terror — was later turned over to the United States for further investigations.