Militants flee Pakistan after cross-border attack

Friday , July 13, 2012 - 9:19 AM

Pakistan

People rush an injured man to hospital following a bomb blast near a rally by the Awami National...

Anwarullah Khan

KHAR, Pakistan— Dozens of militants who came from Afghanistan to attack a village in Pakistan’s northwest and took scores of hostages fled back across the border, leaving behind the captives and carrying the bodies of 15 fighters killed in a battle with the army, Pakistani officials said Friday.

Elsewhere in the country, a bomb exploded near a political rally in the southwestern city of Quetta, killing at least five people, officials said.

The militants who staged the cross-border attack Thursday around 2 p.m. local time came from Afghanistan’s Kunar province and appeared to be targeting members of an anti-Taliban militia in Kitkot village near Pakistan’s Bajur tribal area, according to Pakistani officials.

Pakistan has railed against Afghan and NATO forces for not doing enough to stop the rising number of cross-border attacks, which it says have killed dozens of members of its security forces. However, there has been little sympathy from the U.S. and Afghan governments, which have long complained Pakistan allows sanctuary to militants fighting in Afghanistan.

The militants fled Kitkot under the cover of darkness around midnight Thursday, said Framosh Khan, a government official in the surrounding area. Locals reported seeing them carrying the bodies of 15 dead fighters, he said. Two anti-Taliban militiamen were also killed in the fighting.

Pakistani soldiers managed to free dozens of villagers who were taken hostage by the militants or were trapped in their homes during the fighting, said Khan.

The information could not be independently verified because the area is largely off-limits to reporters.

The bombing in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, appeared to target a rally being held by the Awami National Party, which has been attacked many times before because of its opposition to Islamist militants.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

In addition to the five people killed, 11 others were wounded, said Mohammed Jafar, a doctor at the city’s main hospital. Most of the victims were attending the political rally when the bomb went off.

Baluchistan is home to both Islamist militants and Baluch nationalists, who have been waging a decades-long insurgency against the government for greater autonomy and a larger share of the province’s natural resources.

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Associated Press writer Abdul Sattar contributed to this report from Quetta, Pakistan.

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