ISLAMABAD - Suspicion intensified yesterday that a suicide car bomber who killed three U.S. soldiers training Pakistani troops along the Afghan border had inside information on their movements.
If confirmed that Wednesday's suicide attack was aimed at the Americans, it would indicate an increased sophistication in militant tactics, as well as potential infiltration of extremists in Pakistani security forces.
The attack occurred in Lower Dir, a northwest district believed to be a crossroads for al-Qaida and the Taliban. The blast also killed three schoolgirls and a Pakistani paramilitary soldier. Two more U.S. soldiers were among dozens wounded.
Police official Naeem Khan said yesterday that authorities were investigating whether the suicide bomber knew the soldiers would be passing through Shahi Koto town and which vehicle to target in the five-car convoy, which also included Pakistani troops.
Such convoys usually include green military vehicles carrying armed troops who are clearly visible. The Pakistani forces could also have been the target as they have frequently been over the past several years.
"We launched a massive search in the area , and now about 35 suspects are in our custody, and we are questioning them in an effort to trace those who orchestrated the suicide attack," Khan said. "God willing, we will capture those responsible for this carnage." Local resident Gohar Khan said he saw a small car attack the convoy.
"As soon as the convoy appeared it rushed to that place and exploded," he told The Associated Press.
The soldiers killed were part of a small group of American troops training members of Pakistan's paramilitary Frontier Corps.The soldiers' deaths were the first known U.S. military fatalities in nearly three years in Pakistan's Afghan border region.