Militants kidnap 7 Pakistan paramilitary soldiers

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MIRANSHAH, Pakistan, Sept 19 (Reuters) Pro-Taliban militants in northwest Pakistan attacked a military checkpost today and captured seven paramilitary soldiers, security officials said.

The raid was the latest in a series of bloody militant attacks on security forces and abductions of soldiers since July, when a pact with militants broke down and commandos stormed a radical mosque in Islamabad.

The violence has raised fresh doubts among many Pakistanis about President Pervez Musharraf's unpopular alliance with the United States and its war on terrorism, as the embattled president and army chief tries to secure another term.

The soldiers were captured in a pre-dawn raid on their post in Tall town in North West Frontier Province, near the border of the North Waziristan tribal region where a controversial 10-month pact with militants collapsed in July.

''I can confirm that seven paramilitary soldiers were kidnapped in the attack,'' said senior Tall police official Mirza Ali Khan.

In a separate incident, two paramilitary soldiers were captured late on Tuesday in a region of North Waziristan where 18 troops and 16 militants were killed in fighting this week, said militant spokesman Ahmadullah Ahmadi.

North and South Waziristan on the Afghan border are hotbeds of support for al Qaeda and the Taliban.

In South Waziristan, tribal elders are trying to secure the release of about 250 troops captured late last month as they travelled in a convoy.

The militants are demanding security forces pull out of the area and release some captured comrades.

One elder involved in the negotiations said its was hoped at least some of the abducted soldiers would be released soon on condition the military agreed to withdraw from three posts.

REUTERS SYU DS1225

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