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School bus hits landmine in Pakistan; six wounded

Written by: Staff
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TANK, Pakistan, Mar 27 (Reuters) Six children were wounded when their school minibus hit a landmine in a troubled Pakistani tribal area today, officials in the area said.

Local government officials suspected the mine could have been planted by tribal militants supporting al Qaeda and Afghanistan's Taliban guerrillas.

Two of the children were in a critical condition, said one official, who requested anonymity.

The children were on their way to school at Shakai, 75 km northwest of Tank town, in the South Waziristan tribal area bordering Afghanistan.

Last week, the Pakistani military reported that troops were believed to have killed up to 20 militants in clashes in neighbouring North Waziristan.

Around 200 tribesmen were killed in fighting with the army in North Waziristan earlier this month after they answered a call to arms by militant Muslim clerics following a special forces assault on an al Qaeda camp.

A large number of al Qaeda militants and their allies fled to Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal regions after US-led forces ousted them from Afghanistan following the September 11 attacks on Washington and New York in 2001.

On Thursday President Pervez Musharraf, a key ally in the US-led war on terrorism, warned foreign militants hiding in the tribal region to leave Pakistan or face annihilation.

The security forces have captured or killed hundreds of al Qaeda members over the past four years but Afghan officials often complain that Islamist militants, particularly Taliban fighters, use Pakistani soil to launch attacks inside Afghanistan.

Pakistan says it is doing all it can to stem cross-border movement of the militants and has urged Afghan forces to do more on their side of the long, porous border.

REUTERS SHB ND1336

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