Taliban kill 12 Pakistani soldiers in ambush

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    Taliban kill 12 Pakistani soldiers in ambush

    Sun Jun 28, 2009 1:05pm EDT

    WANA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Taliban militants ambushed a Pakistani military convoy near the Afghan border on Sunday killing 12 soldiers, the army said, as it prepared an assault on Pakistan's Taliban chief.

    The military, near the end of an offensive in the northwestern Swat Valley after two months of fighting, is set to launch a new drive in South Waziristan, where Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud is based.

    Pakistan's campaign against the Taliban has won the praise of close ally the United States, which needs Pakistan to go after the militants as it pursues its own strategy to defeat al Qaeda and stabilize Afghanistan.

    The top U.S. commander for the region, General David Petraeus, arrived for talks with Pakistani leaders, the U.S. embassy said. Media said he met army chief General Ashfaq Kayani.

    The Taliban have responded to the offensive with bombings in towns and cities and attacks on the military across the north.

    Militants firing rocket-propelled grenades ambushed the military convoy in North Waziristan, another militant stronghold on the Afghan border, intelligence agency officials said.

    Several vehicles were hit and the military said 12 soldiers were killed and 10 wounded. It was the heaviest military toll in an attack for months.

    "An exchange of fire between security forces and terrorists continued for some time. Ten terrorists were killed," the military said in a statement.

    The fragile civilian government has the support of most political parties and members of the public for the offensive, but heavy army casualties will raise criticism.

    As Petraeus arrived unannounced for talks with a Pakistani leadership he said last month had been "galvanized" by the Taliban threat, about 10,000 Islamist party supporters rallied in the city of Karachi calling on America to stop interfering in the country.

    CIVILIANS FLEE

    Earlier on Sunday, government aircraft bombed two Taliban compounds in a stronghold of Pakistani Taliban leader Mehsud in South Waziristan, killing eight militants, intelligence officials in the region said.

    The government has said Mehsud, who carries a $5 million U.S. reward on his head, and his force of thousands of followers must be defeated. It posted a reward of 50 million rupees ($615,000) for Mehsud on Sunday and smaller rewards for 10 of his top men.

    Mehsud, who security analysts say has become increasingly close to al Qaeda, has been accused of a string of attacks in Pakistani towns and cities including the December 2007 assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

    Mehsud is allied with Afghan Taliban fighters but they concentrate on attacking U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan and are not the focus of the Pakistani offensive
    Taliban kill 12 Pakistani soldiers in ambush | International | Reuters
     
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