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Islamic Militants Capture Military Base in NW Pakistan


Islamic militants have captured a remote military outpost in northwest Pakistan near the Afghan border. VOA's Nancy-Amelia Collins in Islamabad has more.

The Pakistan military said Wednesday more than 20 troops are missing and feared dead as Islamic militants linked to al Qaida captured a remote military outpost located along South Waziristan's mountainous border with Afghanistan.

Military spokesman General Athar Abbas said about 300 Islamic militants attacked the Sararogha Fort from four sides late Tuesday evening.

"Around 300 plus miscreants launched a fresh attack with rocket fire and small arms fire and they were able to make a hole in the wall at the moment the fort has been captured by the militants," he said.

Abbas says 15 troops were able to escape to an army base in Jandola, located around 35 kilometers east of Sararogha Fort, but up to 25 others are missing and feared dead.

Abbas also claimed the military killed 40 militants during Tuesday evening's attack.

The capture of Sararogha Fort is the first military outpost captured by the Islamic militants since last October when the insurgents captured military and police posts in the tourist region of Swat Valley.

The government has since recaptured Swat Valley, but sporadic fighting continues in the region.

The Sararogha Fort outpost is one of dozens located along South Waziristan's border with Afghanistan, a mountainous, lawless region where the Pakistan military patrols - checking for militants and weapons crossing between the two borders.

The Pakistan army has been battling with al Qaida linked militants in this region for several years.

Pakistan has been hit by over 20 suicide bombings in the past few months aimed mostly at the security forces that have claimed the lives of more than 400 people.

These attacks include the assassination last month of former prime minister and opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, who was killed while campaigning for parliamentary elections.

While Ms. Bhutto's supporters blame elements within the government for her death, the government blames al Qaida-linked militant leader Baitullah Mehsud.

The Sararogha area where the military outpost was captured is also the stronghold of Mehsud and his followers.

Analysts say the growing number of suicide attacks coupled with this latest setback for the military is likely to contribute to fears the government is unable to contain the Islamic insurgency ahead of next month's parliamentary elections.

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