Three U.S. soldiers were killed and two injured in a roadside explosion that also killed at least five others, including two schoolgirls and a Pakistani soldier and wounded nearly 70, mostly school children, in the North-West Frontier Province on Wednesday.
This is the first time that U.S. soldiers have been killed in Pakistan in the “war on terror”.
The U.S. embassy here confirmed in a statement that the Americans were military personnel who were in Pakistan to train the Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force, and condemned the attack as a “vicious terrorist bombing”.
U.S. military presence, even for training purposes, is widely resented here and viewed with suspicion. The embassy’s statement underlined that the soldiers were in the country to conduct training at the invitation of the Frontier Corps
It said the soldiers were on their way to attend the inauguration ceremony of a school for girls that had recently been renovated with U.S. humanitarian assistance in the Maidan area of Lower Dir.
The district is close to Swat. The Pakistan Army conducted operations in both places last year against the Taliban, ousting the militants from their strongholds and restoring a semblance of normality.
Rebuilding and rehabilitation work is going on in both areas with a special focus on the reconstruction of girls’ schools, a particular target of the Taliban before the military operations.
Wednesday’s blast occurred when convoy in which the soldiers were travelling was hit by what the military spokesman described as an improvised explosive device.
The bomb was planted close to a school in Koto village, on the route to the renovated school.
Reports said there was a huge crater where the bomb went off, and parts of the school were destroyed. Most of the injured were students in the school trapped in the rubble. Three local journalists were also wounded.
Of the nearly 70 people who are reported to have suffered injuries, the majority were school girls.