US soldiers, children killed in Pak school blast

PESHAWAR: A bomb blast in northwest Pakistan killed eight people today, including three US soldiers and children at the opening of a school which had just been rebuilt after an Islamist attack.

The US troops tasked with training Pakistani paramilitary soldiers were travelling in a convoy with local troops, journalists and officials to the opening ceremony of the girls’ school when the bomb exploded. It appears to be the first time American soldiers have been killed in such an attack in Pakistan.

At least 65 people, most of them schoolgirls and some journalists, were wounded in the attack in the district of Lower Dir, where the army last year launched an assault to drive out Taliban militants advancing across the area.

“Three US soldiers attached to the FC (Frontier Corps) as trainers were killed in the blast,” military spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas told AFP. There was no immediate confirmation from the US embassy.

“We are checking on the whereabouts of all our people,” US embassy spokesman Rick Snelsire told AFP. District police chief Mumtaz Zarin said eight people were killed, earlier saying that four foreign aid workers were dead.

The military confirmed that one FC soldier was killed and hospital officials said four schoolgirls also died. “We have four bodies. They are schoolgirls aged 10 to 15. We have received 65 injured, most of them are girls,” chief doctor Mohammad Wakeel at the local Taimargara Hospital told AFP. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned the attack and ordered an investigation into the roadside bombing in Koto village, about 10 km from Taimargara, the main town in Lower Dir district.

The school had been blown up in January 2009 and was rebuilt with the help of a foreign aid organisation.