ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) – A suicide car bomb killed five Pakistani soldiers and wounded nine others near the Afghan border Thursday, the military said.
The bomber attacked security forces in South Waziristan’s main town of Wana, a military statement said.
Two vehicles were damaged, it said, giving no other details.
Al-Qaeda and Taliban-linked militants are believed to operate in the rugged, lawless tribal regions along the Afghan-Pakistan border. Pakistani troops have fought intense battles against extremists there in recent years.
American forces in Afghanistan are known to operate unmanned aircraft, or drones, in the region. On Sunday, missiles that witnesses said came from a drone struck a militant safe house, killing about 20 people 5 kilometers (3 miles) outside Wana.
In another statement, Pakistan’s military said it conducted a final test flight Thursday for a Pakistani-made drone called Uqaab, or Eagle.
“The flight data collected indicates that all design parameters have been successfully validated,” the statement said. It did not specify when the new pilotless plane would begin missions, nor where it would eventually fly.
A string of militant attacks, many of them suicide bombings, have killed more than 300 civilians and security forces in Pakistan since the beginning of the year.
Authorities blame the attacks on militants operating out of the tribal regions.
Thursday’s bomber struck as U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney was visiting Afghanistan, where he urged Pakistan to battle extremists in the border region.
Standing beside Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Cheney said the Pakistani and Afghan governments were a target for al-Qaeda and other extremists. “They have as big a stake as anyone else,” he said.
The U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Anne W. Patterson, lauded anti-terrorism cooperation between Pakistan and America and underscored the threat Pakistan faces from extremism.
“A small group of misguided individuals must not be allowed to deter the moderate, mainstream majority from building the prosperous and democratic future they envision for Pakistan,” Patterson said Thursday at a graduation ceremony in Islamabad for Pakistani police officers who were trained in part by the U.S. State Department.
“Our government shares the government of Pakistan’s goal to detect, deny, defeat, capture and prosecute terrorists and their organizations,” an embassy statement quoted Patterson as saying.