A man carries an injured girl from the site of a bombing in Timergara, the main town in Lower Dir district, located in Pakistan's restive North West Frontier province on Wednesday.
A man carries an injured girl from the site of a bombing in Timergara, the main town in Lower Dir district, located in Pakistan's restive North West Frontier province on Wednesday. M. Abdullah/Reuters/Landov
Soldiers of Pakistan's paramilitary force and an official look at the damage caused by a bomb explosion in Lower Dir, Pakistan, on Wednesday.
Soldiers of Pakistan's paramilitary force and an official look at the damage caused by a bomb explosion in Lower Dir, Pakistan, on Wednesday. Sherin Zada/AP
Three U.S. soldiers were killed and two others wounded in Pakistan's North West Frontier province on Wednesday when a bomb hit a convoy they were traveling in. The U.S. Embassy in Pakistan confirmed the casualties and said the Americans were in the insurgency-torn region bordering Afghanistan to train a local paramilitary force.
The five Americans — the first U.S. fatalities in the lawless tribal region — were traveling in a security convoy in the province's Lower Dir district when their bulletproof vehicle was struck, Col. Nadim Mirza, the commandant of the Dir scouts who was traveling with the soldiers, told NPR.
The six-vehicle convoy was hit by a roadside bomb close to the Koto Girls High School. The blast destroyed much of the school and killed three of the students there and wounded about 100 others. A Pakistani soldier traveling in the convoy was also killed. The U.S. Embassy said the attack "clearly shows the terrorists' vision."
Mirza said a suicide attacker detonated his bomb-laden car as the convoy passed, but unnamed police officials told The Associated Press that the blast was detonated by remote control. It was not clear whether the attackers knew the convoy was carrying soldiers, the police said.
Mirza, who was injured in the attack, called the bombing a setback for peace and reconstruction.
The area has been a stronghold of pro-al-Qaida militants, but Pakistani authorities claim it has been secured. The Pakistani army launched a major operation in Lower Dir and the nearby Swat Valley last year that succeeded in pushing the insurgents out, but isolated attacks have continued.
An embassy statement said the U.S. personnel were there to attend the inauguration of a school for girls that had been recently renovated with U.S. humanitarian assistance. However, the attack occurred near another girls' school. The U.S. troops killed were in Pakistan to conduct training at the invitation of the country's paramilitary Pakistan Frontier Corps, the embassy said.
A small contingent of U.S. troops has been training the Frontier Corps — a major force in the northwest — since at least 2008, officials from both countries have said.
Two Pakistani reporters traveling in same convoy as the Americans told the AP that Pakistani military guides referred to the foreigners traveling with them as journalists. Initial reports of the attack, which proved incorrect, said four foreign journalists had been killed. Mohammad Israr Khan, who works for Khyber TV, was quoted as saying two of the foreigners were wearing civilian clothes, not uniforms or traditional Pakistani dress.
The two wounded soldiers were evacuated to the Al-Shifa hospital in the capital, Islamabad, where a doctor who asked not to be named told the AP that one of the injured had minor head wounds and the other had multiple fractures.
Despite the presence of tens of thousands of U.S. forces in neighboring Afghanistan, Pakistan does not permit American troops to conduct military operations on its soil.
From NPR staff and wire service reports