Militant ambush in Pakistan kills 2 Taliban aides
ISLAMABAD (AP) – Militants ambushed a military convoy carrying prisoners in Pakistan’s volatile northwest on Saturday, killing two detained aides of a senior Islamist cleric from the Swat Valley, the army said.
A roadside bomb and gunfire hit the convoy as it traveled from Sakhakot town near Swat to the main northwestern city of Peshawar early Saturday, an army statement said. One soldier also died in the attack and five were wounded, it said.
The army identified the prisoners as Muhammad Maulana Alam and Ameer Izzat Khan, top aides to hard-line cleric Sufi Muhammad who negotiated a peace deal with the government that was widely seen as allowing the Taliban to seize control of the Swat Valley.
The deal collapsed earlier this year when the Taliban advanced into neighboring districts, triggering a military offensive that prompted a spree of retaliatory attacks by militants in the northwest and beyond.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media, said the killing of the prisoners was apparently an accident because the militants would not have known they were in the convoy.
The month-old army offensive is seen as a test of Pakistan’s resolve to take on militants who have gained influence in recent years and challenged the central government’s rule in the border region with Afghanistan.
Security forces detained Maulana Alam and Izzat Khan during a raid last Thursday at a religious school in a district near Swat. Another aide to Muhammad, Syed Wahab, was also seized. It was not immediately known if Wahab was in the convoy on Saturday.