Bomb attack kills five Pakistani soldiers

A roadside bomb killed five Pakistani soldiers on Thursday in a tribal region on the Afghan border where the army has been battling to subdue Islamist rebels, a military spokesman said.The latest attack on the military came a day after President Pervez Musharraf handed over command of the army to General Ashfaq Kayani, the former head of the main military intelligence agency. Musharraf was sworn in as a civilian president on Thursday.

Government and military officials have said Musharraf’s resignation would have no impact on efforts to combat militancy.

The blast on Thursday targeted a military convoy as it was traveling through the North Waziristan region, about 20 km (12 miles) east of the region’s main town of Miranshah, said military spokesman Major-General Waheed Arshad.

“It was an IED (improvised explosive device) that killed five troops and wounded four on a road between Miranshah and Mir Ali,” Arshad said.

Many militants took refuge in remote North Waziristan and other areas on the border after U.S.-backed troops ousted the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001.

The militants have been launching raids back into Afghanistan from their mountain strongholds.

They have also been infiltrating deeper into Pakistan including the Swat valley where the army this month launched an offensive to clear out hundreds of militants and their radical cleric leader.

Arshad said security forces had captured the headquarters of the cleric, Fazlullah, and found weapons and communications equipment, but the cleric and his men had fled.

“The militants have run away towards the west in a few remote valleys. We’ll chase them and make sure those areas are also cleared,” he said.

Villagers in the scenic valley, which until recently had been a tourist destination, had in some places destroyed the militants’ bunkers and houses, he said.

“The people have more confidence and the police have gone back to many areas. Things are getting back to normal,” he said.

The bodies of six militants, including two Uzbeks, were found on Wednesday, he said. Up to 220 militants and 15 soldiers have been killed in the past 10 days.

Musharraf cited rising militant violence when he declared a state of emergency on November 3. He is expected to lift the emergency soon.

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