U.S. Soldiers Killed In Pakistan Blast

Three U.S. military personnel were killed and two were wounded in Pakistan on Wednesday, as their security convoy traveled through a district in the northwest part of the country. The five were part of a low-profile unit that is training a Pakistani paramilitary force that patrols along border with Afghanistan. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

And we begin this hour in Pakistan, where the U.S. suffered a very public setback in its intentionally low-profile campaign against the Taliban there. Three American military personnel were killed and two wounded as their convoy travel through a district in the northwest part of the country. They were there training a Pakistani force to patrol the border with Afghanistan. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack.

As NPR's Julie McCarthy reports from Islamabad, news of the U.S. soldiers is sure to inflame anti-American passions there.

JULIE MCCARTHY: The American servicemen killed in the volatile district of Lower Dir where special operations forces, say sources of the Defense Department, part of the approximately 200 U.S. military personnel in Pakistan. The U.S. embassy issued a statement saying that the slain Americans were conducting training of Pakistan's Frontier Corp. Farah Naz Asfahani, media adviser to Pakistan's president, was quick to characterize U.S. military trainers as nothing out of the ordinary.

Ms. FARAH NAZ ASFAHANI (Media Adviser to President of Pakistan) I think that there is no secret to the fact that there are some U.S. military personnel here training the Frontier Corp at the invitation of the Frontier Corp. I think that this is known to one and all and it's legal and an open book.

MCCARTHY: But the presence of American military personnel on Pakistani soil is one of the most sensitive issues there is between the two allies. President Asif Ali Zardari must contend with soaring anti-Americanism here and a belief that he is too close to Washington. Those negative attitudes will be reinforced by the killing of Americans on Pakistani territory, according to retired brigadier Javed Hussain. He says the attack that killed Americans, as well as Pakistani citizens, including four schoolgirls, will generate pressure on an already fragile government.

Brigadier JAVED HUSSAIN (Pakistan, Retired): Because they have been denying the presence of either Blackwater or American military personnel on Pakistani soil. Now, people are going to ask them you have been denying the presence of American military personnel, what were these three marines doing? And how many more are there? Where are they? I don't know. And many, many people like me don't know.

MCCARTHY: Defense Department sources say that the number of U.S. trainers in Pakistan has increased over the past year. One of the men killed in today's attack was helping improve radio communications to better win hearts and minds say sources.

Khalid Aziz, the former chief secretary of the North West Frontier Province says the Frontier Corp has clearly benefited from their American training. Four years ago, he says, the Corp on the frontline in the battle with Pakistan's militants was disintegrating.

Mr. KHALID AZIZ (Former Chief Secretary, North West Frontier Province): Now it has become a force to be reckoned with. But this training has helped. I mean, if someone says that nothing has happened, I think that would be absurd. The training has helped.

MCCARTHY: The U.S. embassy said the slain servicemen were attending the inauguration of a girls' school that had been renovated with U.S. humanitarian assistance. That U.S. military personnel were involved in development projects was not previously known. The commandant of Dir Scouts who was injured in the attack told NPR that the Americans were brave, intelligent friends who had helped on numerous small projects. But Khalid Aziz says surveying aid sites exposed them to even greater hazard.

Mr. AZIZ: I think it was fraught with danger and risk. And this, I'm sure, is not the first visit because this game of planting improvised explosive device requires forewarning, requires awareness of the routine. It doesn't happen accidentally. These things are very precisely planned.

MCCARTHY: Today's bombing was a grim reminder of the Taliban's tenacity. The Pakistani military has insisted that an army offensive last spring in Lower Dir flushed out the militants.

Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Islamabad.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

U.S. Troops Killed In Blast Near School In Pakistan

A man carries an injured girl from the site of a bombing in Timergara i i

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 hide caption

itoggle caption M. Abdullah/Reuters/Landov
A man carries an injured girl from the site of a bombing in Timergara

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 look at bomb damage. i i

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 hide caption

itoggle caption Sherin Zada/AP
Soldiers of Pakistan's paramilitary force look at bomb damage.

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

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.