Pakistan says 9 soldiers killed by Taliban attackers near border with Afghanistan

Pakistani Taliban militant holds a rocket-propelled grenade in Pakistani tribal region of Waziristan, Pakistan. Aug. 5, 2012 AP

(AP) ISLAMABAD - Taliban militants attacked an army post near the Afghan border in Pakistan's northwest, killing nine soldiers, a military official said Wednesday.

The attack occurred in the South Waziristan tribal area, once the main stronghold for the Pakistani Taliban, and was a reminder of the threat posed by insurgents despite numerous military offensives against them.

The military launched a large offensive against militants there in 2009, but insurgents still operate in the area and periodically stage attacks.

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In addition to the nine soldiers killed, several others were wounded in the attack on the post near Ghatbadr village in the Shakai Valley, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. The attack started just before midnight and lasted for several hours, he said.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. The group's spokesman, Ahsanullah Ahsan, claimed they killed 12 soldiers and beheaded some of them.

The differing accounts could not be independently verified.

The military has conducted offensives against the Pakistani Taliban in six of the seven areas that make up Pakistan's semiautonomous tribal region along the Afghan border.

The U.S. said recently that Pakistan plans to launch an operation against the Pakistani Taliban in the last major militant sanctuary in region, North Waziristan. But Pakistani military officials have downplayed the comments, saying they plan to slowly increase pressure against militants in North Waziristan rather than launch a sweeping offensive.

Many Pakistani Taliban militants fled to North Waziristan and other parts of the tribal region following the army operation in South Waziristan in 2009.

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