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Blasts reported near Pakistan-Afghan border

Explosions were reported Tuesday at a suspected militant hide-out in northwestern Pakistan near the Afghan border, and there were several casualties, the army said.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Explosions at a suspected militant hideout in northwestern Pakistan near the Afghan border on Tuesday caused casualties, the army said.

Three missiles fired from Afghanistan destroyed a training facility in Pakistan, killing 17 militants and wounding 10 others, according to an intelligence official in North Waziristan. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media.

But Pakistan army spokesman Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad claimed that the explosions were caused when bombs militants were making at an isolated compound exploded accidentally.

"The blast happened when these militants were making bombs, and there were several casualties," he said.

The intelligence official said it was a local Taliban militant training facility, housed in a big mud-brick compound in the border village of Mami Rogha, about 25 miles west of Miran Shah, the main town in North Waziristan.

He provided no further details but maintained the compound had been hit by missiles fired from Afghanistan.

Other Pakistani intelligence officials, who also requested anonymity, said the compound lay about two miles inside Pakistan and was surrounded by forests. The officials said some militants were sitting in an open area of a madrassa, or Islamic seminary, when they were attacked, but they could not confirm whether the missiles were fired from Afghanistan.

The U.S. military in Afghanistan said it had no reports of missiles being fired across the border.

"I am not aware of any reports of any missiles being fired from Afghanistan into Pakistan," said Lt. Col. David Accetta, spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan.

"Pakistan is a sovereign nation, and we respect sovereignty," he said.

Taliban and al-Qaida fighters are believed to shelter in North Waziristan, where last September Pakistan, a key ally in the U.S.-led war on terrorism, signed a peace deal with Taliban sympathizers as part of its bid to bring the lawless region under control.

Critics, however, say the agreement may have given a freer hand for militants to stage attacks on U.S. and NATO forces across the border in Afghanistan.

Several raids on suspected terror targets in Pakistan have apparently been launched from Afghanistan.

In January 2006, a CIA Predator drone hit houses in a Pakistani border village in Bajur, a tribal region north of Waziristan, where al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri was expected to visit, Pakistani intelligence officials said. Al-Zawahri escaped injury but 13 other people were killed.

The U.S. government never confirmed its involvement in that strike.

In December 2005, a Hellfire missile allegedly fired by an unmanned American warplane killed an Egyptian al-Qaida figure, Hamza Rabia, in North Waziristan. Pakistan's army, however, maintained that Rabia had died in a bomb-making accident.

Pakistani forces have also raided suspected militant hideouts using U.S.-supplied helicopters.