PESHAWAR: Militants killed eight members of a government paramilitary force in a midnight attack on a security checkpoint in Pakistan's restive northwest, security officials said yesterday.
The militants bombarded the checkpoint with rocket-propelled grenades, two senior military officials said, before overrunning and ransacking it. Local residents said the gunfire began around midnight and continued for at least two hours.
The attack, for which no militant group has so far claimed responsibility, comes amid a military offensive to push the Taliban out of North Waziristan, a remote northwestern region near the border with Afghanistan.
Nato has long urged the military to take action against Taliban safe havens in North Waziristan, where many groups had bases they used to launch attacks in Afghanistan.
North Waziristan was considered the key stronghold of the Taliban after other areas in Pakistan had been mostly cleared of militants.
But residents say most militants moved out before the Pakistani army announced its offensive last month, raising fears that they may now be beefing up their presence in other areas.
"The militants displaced from North Waziristan have returned to the Khyber agency and started attacks on security forces," said one security official.
The Khyber Agency is part of the semi-autonomous areas where tribal law holds sway instead of Pakistan's judicial system, and the government is represented by a political agent.
Eight members of the state-run Frontier Corps men were killed and three others injured in the attack in the region's Jamrud subdivision.
Khyber is about 48 kilometres north of North Waziristan, and also borders Afghanistan.
The paramilitary forces of Pakistan consist of various organisations constitutionally charged with safeguarding Pakistan from external and internal threats as well as maintaining internal law and order. Their current strength is approximately over 420,000 personnel.
The paramilitary forces can be divided into three categories, performing three distinct roles: Firstly the armed security forces (the Rangers and Frontier Corps), secondly a reserve force (the National Guard), and thirdly the Maritime Security Agency.