Suspected Islamic militants attacked a Pakistan army camp in a remote tribal region near the Afghan border, killing at least four soldiers and wounding another three, officials said Friday.
The attack late Thursday occurred near the tribal town of Wana in South Waziristan, where Pakistani security forces launched an operation against “foreign terrorists” Thursday.
A local official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said four soldiers were killed and at least three were wounded when unidentified militants fired rockets at their camp.
Military spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan said only one or two soldiers were killed, while two were wounded.
“The attackers fired a couple of rockets at the camp near Wana,” he told Reuters. “Unfortunately there were one or two casualties.”
Witnesses in Wana, the capital of South Waziristan, said they had heard firing for about 45 minutes.
Pakistan’s rugged mountain region bordering Afghanistan is thought to be a haven for al Qaeda and Taliban fugitives because they enjoy massive support among the local Pashtun population.
Fugitives, who Pakistani, U.S. and Afghan officials believe could be hiding in the border area, include the world’s most wanted man # al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
The latest operation involved troops backed by helicopter gunships.
The military said it was aimed at “foreign terrorists,” but has not identified them and witnesses said the militants managed to escape in the rugged mountain area.
Security forces destroyed two houses to punish local tribespeople suspected of helping the militants, witnesses said.
Afghanistan’s Taliban guerrillas enjoy considerable support from conservative Pashtun tribesmen in the Pakistani border region and Pakistan has been accused of not doing enough to help combat their stepped up insurgency.
In October, the Pakistani army said it had killed eight al Qaeda or Taliban suspects and arrested 18 others in another operation close to the Afghan border in South Waziristan.