Militants capture 22 troops in NW Pakistan

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PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Oct 2 (Reuters) Pro-Taliban militants killed two Pakistani paramilitary soldiers and captured 22 in an attack on a military checkpost near the northwestern town of Bannu, officials today said.

Attacks on security forces and abductions of soldiers have surged in Pakistan since July, when a pact with militants in the North Waziristan region collapsed and commandos stormed a radical mosque in the capital, Islamabad.

Militants in South Waziristan are still holding about 225 soldiers captured at the end of August.

The attack on the post near Bannu late on Monday came hours after a suicide bomber killed 15 people, including four policemen, in the town in North West Frontier Province.

''More than 200 militants attacked the post and killed two soldiers of the Frontier Constabulary and took 22 away with them,'' said senior paramilitary official Abdul Nawaz Khattak.

Khattak said 10 to 15 militants were killed in the attack.

The surge in violence comes as army chief and president Pervez Musharraf is preparing to try to win another term in an October 6 presidential election.

The violence has raised fresh doubts among many Pakistanis about Musharraf's unpopular alliance with the United States in its war on terrorism, which they blame for stirring up militant violence in ethnic Pashtun areas bordering Afghanistan.

REUTERS ARB KN1610

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