6 Pak security officers killed

ISLAMABAD: Militant attacks killed six Pakistani security officers on Monday, a day after the Taliban chief warned of more terrorist strikes if the army did not stop its offensive against insurgents along the Afghan border.

Many schools around the country reopened after being shuttered for a week following warnings of insurgent strikes and a double suicide bombing at a university in the capital.

The army moved into South Waziristan tribal region nine days ago vowing to crush the Pakistani Taliban, a militant network it says is behind 80 percent of the suicide bombings in Pakistan. Washington backs the operation because militants in the northwest region are believed to shelter al-Qaida leaders and attack Western troops in Afghanistan.

Militants assaulted security officials in Toraware village overnight, killing two and wounding four in a three-hour shootout in the area some 60 miles (95 kilometers) north of South Waziristan, police officer Mir Chaman Khan said. Some 10 insurgents were believed to have been killed.

In Bajur, a tribal region further north, Taliban fighters attacked a checkpoint at Matthak village, killing four security officials. Seven militants died in the clash, said Syed Ghulam Rasool, a local government official. The militants also attacked security check posts at Khar, the main town in Bajur, and Siddiqabad, an adjoining village, wounding at least three security personnel.

Militant attacks in Pakistan have surged this month, killing more than 200 people, as the Taliban have tried to avert the army offensive in South Waziristan. The military announced Saturday it had captured the hometown of Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud — its first major achievement in the offensive.

The army said Kotkai, Mehsud's hometown, had hosted a training camp for suicide bombers.

Mehsud remained defiant Sunday. He said in a telephone call to an Associated Press reporter the militants had not suffered "any significant losses" in Waziristan. Mehsud, speaking from an undisclosed location, threatened to turn Pakistan into "another Afghanistan or Iraq" unless the assault stopped.

Independent verification of such reports is nearly impossible because the military has blocked access to South Waziristan. The tribal regions as a whole are difficult to access and largely off-limits to foreign journalists.

The army has deployed some 30,000 troops to South Waziristan to take on an estimated 12,000 militants, including up to 1,500 foreign fighters, among them Uzbeks and Arabs. The U.N. says some 155,000 civilians have fled.