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Four Pakistani soldiers killed in roadside blast

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PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) – Four soldiers were killed and another four were wounded by a roadside bomb blast in a tribal area of northwestern Pakistan on Friday, in the latest attack in recent weeks in the restive North Waziristan region, officials said.

Security officials said the device was planted on a road in Khar Qamar, an area where security forces had recently conducted a search operation following a previous roadside bomb attack.

The Pakistani Taliban, which is separate from the Afghan Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack, according to Mohammad Khurasani, a spokesman for the movement, many of whose members are based across the border in Afghanistan.

Pakistani forces have conducted a series of operations against militant groups including the Pakistani Taliban in North Waziristan over recent years, although officials now say the area has largely been pacified.

Problems have continued, however, and security officials said at least 10 soldiers have been killed and 35 wounded over the past month in the Khar Qamar area, which has also seen growing tensions with local ethnic Pashtun activists from the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM).

There was no indication of any direct link between Friday’s incident and recent clashes between security forces and PTM activists, in which at least 13 local tribesman have been killed and some 30 wounded.

The military regards the PTM with deep suspicion, accusing it of being funded by foreign intelligence agencies, including those of India and Afghanistan.

Leaders of the group deny receiving any foreign funding and say the PTM is a non-violent grassroots movement dedicated only to defending the civil rights of ethnic minority Pashtuns in Pakistan.

(Reporting by Jibran Ahmad; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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