updated 1/22/2007 5:25:08 AM ET 2007-01-22T10:25:08

A rare suicide attack on the Pakistan army killed three soldiers Monday in North Waziristan, raising fears that government peace deals in the pro-Taliban area near the Afghan border were disintegrating.

In addition to the fatalities, a military spokesman said nine soldiers were wounded, some of them critically, when a car bomber rammed the army vehicles at Khajori checkpost, near the town of Mir Ali, where Taliban and al-Qaida fighters have been active in the past.

“A white colored car hit the convoy and it appears to be a suicide attack,” spokesman Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan told Reuters.

Hundreds of people have been killed in clashes between the security forces and militants in Waziristan since late 2003.

Rare attacks
Suicide attacks on the army, however, are extremely rare, although the Taliban regularly uses the tactic against Afghan, U.S., and NATO-led forces across the border.

Monday’s attack on the army is the first since an air strike by the Pakistan army on a militant base in neighboring South Waziristan region.

The airstrike killed up to 20 militants, according to intelligence officials, though villagers said only the bodies of eight wood-cutters were found.

Tensions have been running high in Waziristan since then, and tribesmen in the area expected a breakdown in peace accords worked out by the government with militants and tribal elders.

Witnesses said people were fleeing their homes in parts of South Waziristan amid fears of renewed fighting.

Militants had taken positions on high ground near army posts near Khaisor, Makeen and Laddah areas, residents say.

“This time, God forbid, if clashes break out, then no one can stop them. We can only pray for a lasting peace,” Maulana Saleh Shah, a member of Senate, from South Waziristan, told Reuters.

The government signed an accord in North Waziristan last September, while a similar deal was struck with militants in South Waziristan in February, 2005.

Increased incursions
U.S. officials say cross-border incursions into Afghanistan by Taliban fighters based in Pakistan increased significantly after the North Waziristan accord, though the tribal area itself has been relatively calm.

Last November, a suicide bomber killed 42 army recruits in Dargai town in the North West Frontier Province, in a revenge for another army helicopter attack.

That air strike killed over 80 men and boys at a madrasa or religious school run by a pro-Taliban cleric in the Bajaur tribal region.

The two Waziristans, which lie at the southern end of Pakistan’s tribal belt, and the northerly Bajaur tribal region pose the greatest security threat among Pakistan’s seven Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

The southwestern province of Baluchistan is said to be another region where Taliban support is greatest.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.


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