August 9, 2007 / 4:50 PM / 12 years ago

16 Pakistani troops missing; feared abducted

A paramilitary soldier stands guard during a Moharram procession in Karachi, January 28, 2007. Sixteen Pakistani paramilitary soldiers were missing on Thursday in a region regarded as a hotbed of support for the Taliban and al Qaeda, and security officials feared militants may have abducted them. REUTERS/Athar Hussain

WANA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Sixteen Pakistani paramilitary soldiers were missing on Thursday in a region regarded as a hotbed of support for the Taliban and al Qaeda, and security officials feared militants may have abducted them.

The men went missing while being transported back to their base in Jandola, 50 km (30 miles) east of Wana, the main town in South Waziristan, a semi-autonomous tribal land on the border with Afghanistan.

“They were supposed to reach Jandola in the evening, but so far we have no information about their whereabouts,” military spokesman Major-General Waheed Arshad said.

A security official in South Waziristan said the men were abducted by pro-Taliban militants, but Arshad said he was unable to confirm what had happened.

Clashes between security forces and militants have increased since a peace pact broke down in neighboring North Waziristan last month, and there have been a series of suicide attacks both inside and outside the tribal lands.

Arshad said the army killed up to a dozen militants in North Waziristan, and destroyed two compounds in a follow-up operation after five soldiers were wounded by a roadside bomb attack on their convoy earlier on Thursday.

Pakistani security forces said they killed at least 10 militants in an attack on hideouts in North Waziristan’s Degan area on Tuesday.

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