More Taliban Leaders Captured

Taliban CaptureWe are blogging the latest news about America's war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Email us at AfPak [at] huffingtonpost.com. Follow Nico on Twitter; follow Nicholas on Twitter. See archives of 'At War' here.
4:15 PM ET -- Latest drone attack targets Haqqani. Newsweek reports that the US's latest missile strike in Pakistan was launched at a convoy carrying the leader of Pakistani Taliban forces in Eastern Afghanistan, Sirajuddin Haqqani. It remains unclear whether Haqqani himself was hit. More details from Newsweek here.
4:00 PM ET -- What's behind Pakistan's move to arrest Baradar. IPS' Gareth Porter is skeptical of the US's spin about the motivations behind Pakistan's capture of Baradar:
Contrary to initial U.S. suggestions that it signals reduced Pakistani support for the Taliban, the detention of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the operational leader of the Afghan Taliban, represents a shift by Pakistan to more open support for the Taliban in preparation for a peace settlement and U.S. withdrawal.
Statements by Pakistani officials to journalists prior to the arrest indicate that the decision to put Baradar in custody is aimed at ensuring that the Taliban role in peace negotiations serves Pakistani interests. They also suggest that Pakistani military leaders view Baradar as an asset in those negotiations rather than an adversary to be removed from the conflict.

3:50 PM ET -- The New York Times' mystery op-ed writer. Salon's Glenn Greenwald calls attention to an op-ed in today's Times which beyond being, according to Greenwald, "monstrous" and "so ugly that it merits little attention" for its complaint that the U.S. is being too cautious about avoiding civilian deaths in Afghanistan, seems to have been written by someone who is practically unknown. Here's Greenwald on the mysterious "Lara Dadkhah."
She's identified only by this conspicuously vague and uninformative line at the end of the Op-Ed: "Lara M. Dadkhah is an intelligence analyst." In the Op-Ed itself, she writes: "While I am employed by a defense consulting company, my research and opinions on air support are my own." What defense consulting company employs her? Do they have any ties to the war effort? Do they benefit from the grotesque policies she's advocating? What type of "analyst" is she? Who knows? In the Op-Ed, she cites her so-called "analysis of data compiled by the United States military." Where is the data behind that analysis, and for whom was the analysis done? The NYT doesn't bother to say, and doesn't require her even to specify her "defense consultant" employer.
More strangely still, it's virtually impossible to find any information about "Lara Dadkhah" using standard Internet tools. Google produces almost nothing about her prior to references to her Op-Ed today. Nexis produces zero returns for her name -- zero.
3:30 PM ET -- Ex-Guantanamo Bay prisoner the next Afghan Taliban commander?
Sanjeev Miglani of Reuters' Afghan Journal suggests one possible person who could succeed the recently captured Mullah Abdul Ghani Barader within the Taliban leadership:
It's a risky business then to hazard a guess as I wrote in this story, but one of the names that is doing the rounds of the security blogs/newspapers is that of Abdul Qayum Zakir, a Taliban fighter from the 1990s who has spent time in Guantanamo Bay. His is an interesting story. He surrendered to U.S. and Afghan forces in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif as the regime was collapsing in 2001.
Story continues below

He spent the next several years in custody, was transferred to Guantanamo around 2006, then to Afghanistan government custody in late 2007, and was eventually released. It's not clear why he was released but he lost no time in re-joining the insurgency. He quickly rose to take charge of the operations in the key provinces of Kandahar, Helmand and Uruzgan.
2:00 PM ET -- Afghan police defecting? The Times' Rod Norland reports that around two dozen may have done so in Warduk Province:
The police officers left their posts in the remote Chak District of Wardak just before midnight Wednesday, and on Thursday morning a Taliban spokesman claimed they had surrendered to them.
"They left with all their weapons, two trucks and machine guns and heavy weapons," said Maj. Abdul Khalil, the police chief in Jalrez District, just north of Chak.

9:00 AM ET -- Taliban running out of ammo? NATO officials are saying this is the case after eavesdropping on Taliban communications, the BBC reports.
8:50 AM ET -- US encountering 'stubborn resistance' in Marjah. AP's report from the frontline on day six of the offensive:
U.S. Marines pummeled insurgents with mortars, sniper fire and missiles as fighting intensified Thursday in two areas of the Taliban southern stronghold of Marjah, where U.S. and Afghan forces are facing stubborn resistance in an operation now in its sixth day.
Marines traded machine-gun fire after coming under attack by insurgents with rocket-propelled grenades. One Marine company attacked Taliban positions surrounding them at dawn.
Marines and Afghan troops continued to battle "stiff resistance" in different parts of town, a Marine spokesman said Thursday
"We're seeing more fortified positions. They're standing their ground, essentially," Lt. Josh Diddams said. "You don't know where you're going to get a little pop up of insurgents who are going to stay and fight."
8:45 AM ET -- U.S. missile strike in Pakistan kills 3. At least 3 people in were killed by a suspected U.S. missile strike which struck a house in North Waziristan, the AP reports, citing Pakistan intelligence officials.
8:15 AM ET -- Al Qaeda-linked militants arrested in Pakistan. From the AP:
Pakistani officials say up to nine al-Qaida-linked militants have been arrested in several raids in the southern city of Karachi.
Two Pakistani intelligence officials said those arrested in the Wednesday night raids included Ameer Muawiya -- a man they said was in charge of foreign al-Qaida militants operating in Pakistan's tribal regions near Afghanistan.
The officials said Thursday that U.S. communication intercepts played an important part in tracking down the suspects.
8:00 AM ET -- Make that one more Taliban leader captured. Yesterday we highlighted the report from Newsweek's Declassified blog about the capture of a second Taliban leader in Pakistan last week, Mullah Abdul Salam, right around the same time as Pakistani authorities grabbed the Taliban's second in command, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. Now the New York Times and the AP are reporting that in addition to Salam, Pakistan security forces, in coordination with US intelligence officials, arrested a third Taliban leader last week. The third Taliban figure, Mullah Mohammad, was like Salam described in reports as a 'shadow governor' of a province in Northern Afghanistan, in this case Baghlan Province. (Salam is said to be the shadow governor of Kunduz.) Mohammad, like Salam, was picked up 10 to 12 days ago, the AP says, citing Afghan officials. Some more info on Salam and Mohammad from the AP:
Both were key figures in the Taliban's expansion to northern Afghanistan, where their forces threatened NATO supply lines coming south from Central Asia and raised alarm that the militants were extending their influence nationwide.
Two Pakistani intelligence officials said Salam was arrested in the Pakistani city of Faisalabad. One of the officials said Salam's arrest was the result of information gleaned from Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, second in command after Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.
READ MORE - More Taliban Leaders Captured

Cluster-bomb ban to enter into force Aug 1

NEW YORK, Feb 18 : The UN said on Wednesday that a convention prohibiting the use of cluster munitions will become a binding international law when it enters into force Aug 1.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions will become effective because Burkina Faso and Moldova ratified it on Tuesday, which brought to 30 the total number of ratifications required to make it binding on the international community.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the entry into force of the convention, saying that it will advance the global disarmament agenda. He said the weapons are unreliable and inaccurate, and continue to harm civilians long after a conflict is over.

"It impairs post-conflict recovery by making roads and land inaccessible to farmers and air workers," he said.

A cluster bomb contains dozens of smaller explosives or bomblets. When dropped from the air, the bomb explodes and spreads the bomblets in mid-air to a vast area, causing injuries indiscriminately. Cluster munitions have been used in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

A total of 104 countries have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions since it was adopted in Oslo in December, 2008. Of the 104 signers, 30 countries have ratified. But the signers did not include major weapons manufacturing countries like China, Russia and the US.

The convention bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of the the weapon and requires countries to clear affected areas within 10 years and destroy stockpiles of the weapon within eight years after they were deployed. The convention calls for assistance to victims and affected communities.

The Convention of Cluster Munitions is the second most significant international disarmament treaty since the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty banning antipersonnel landmines.
READ MORE - Cluster-bomb ban to enter into force Aug 1

British investigate ID theft by 'Mossad' hit squad in Dubai

Peter Elvinger, one of the suspects in the assassination of a senior Hamas official in Dubai British authorities were today investigating whether any its nationals had their identities stolen by the assassination squad who killed a Hamas leader in a Dubai hotel.
Police in the Gulf state are conducting an international manhunt for 11 suspects in the murder of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in his hotel room on January 19.
The investigators have named Melvyn Mildiner, Stephen Hodes, Paul Keeley, Jonathon Graha, James Clarke and Michael Barney as the British passport holders suspected of involvement in the murder, along with three with Irish passports, including a woman, and the holders of a German and a French passport.
The Foreign Office and the Irish Government confirmed today that the passports used were fake.
"We are aware that the holders of six British passports have been named in this case. We believe the passports used were fraudulent and have begun our own investigation," said a spokesman.
"We have informed the authorities in the UAE (United Arab Emirates) that this is the case, and continue to cooperate closely with the Emiratis on this matter," he added.
Today Melvin Adam Milivner, a British-Israeli contacted in Israel, denied that he was the man named by Dubai police.
"I am obviously angry, upset and scared -- any number of things," he said. "And I’m looking into what I can do to try to sort things out and clear my name. I don’t know how this happened or who chose my name or why, but hopefully we’ll find out soon."
The picture of Mr Milivner issued by the Dubai police did not match pictures posted by him on his Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Colleagues of Susan Hodes, the mother of Stephen Daniel Hodes, said she had been thrown into panic by the apparent theft of her son's her name by the assassins.
At her workplace Urban & Rural Estates, in Manchester, a colleague said: "It's not her son. She has got a child called Stephen Daniel Hodes and she is in a complete tizz. Thankfully there was the picture which is not her son. Whether someone has stolen identity or whether there are two Stephen Daniel Hodes I don't know. She called in the office in a complete panic. It's just very uncomfortable for her."
Ireland said the three alleged Irish citizens on the wanted list do not exist. In Germany, officials said the passport number give by Dubai for the lone German suspect is either incomplete or wrong.

Identity theft is a established tactic in the murky world of targeted killings. A Mossad agent involved in the bungled assassination attempt of the Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal stole the identity of a Canadian living in Israel to obtain a Canadian passport.
It is understood that the mastermind behind the killing was the French passport-holder, Peter Elvinger. He was the last of the assassination team to arrive in Dubai and took a plane out of the city at around 19.30 on January 19, about an hour before the murder took place.
In CCTV footage of the victim and suspects released by Dubai police, Al-Mabhouh is shown being tracked by his assassins throughout the day of the murder, who donned an array of disguises, including fake beards and wigs.
Surveillance teams rotated in pairs waiting for Al-Mabhouh’s arrival at the luxury Al Bustan Rotana hotel near Dubai airport.
Al-Mabhouh checked into his hotel at 15.25 on January 19. As he entered the lift to go up to his room, he was joined by two members of the team carrying tennis rackets and dressed in sports gear. They followed him to establish his room number before another member of the team checked into the room across the corridor.
Five hours later Al-Mabhouh was dead. Dubai police maintain he was suffocated, though Hamas has said he was electrocuted and other reports have claimed he was poisoned.
Four men are believed to have carried out the killing, with a further five planning the operation and keeping watch.
Issam al-Humaidan, Dubai’s Attorney General, announced this afternoon that the emirate’s public prosecutor would seek extradition of the suspects to the United Arab Emirates once they are arrested. Details of the local investigation and the suspects’s identities have now been passed to Interpol.
Hamas has directly accused Israel’s spy agency Mossad of carrying out the killing. Dubai police said that Israeli involvement has not been ruled out, despite the stated nationality of the 11 suspects in their passports.
A former high-ranking Mossad official, Rami Yigal, told Israel Army Radio that the assassin “does look professional". But Mr Yigal said it “doesn’t look like an Israeli operation" because of the apparent shortcuts, such as allowing members to be videotaped by security cameras.
Mr Yigal declined to speculate on who could have done it, but said that al-Mabhouh had many enemies and was at the centre of bloody feuds. “He was not new to terror ... and he had many contacts with people who had good reason to want him dead,” he said.

READ MORE - British investigate ID theft by 'Mossad' hit squad in Dubai

Secret Raid Captures Taliban's Top Commander

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, Taliban Commander, Captured

Top Taliban commander captured in secret raid. The Taliban's top military commander has been captured in Pakistan in a joint operation by Pakistani and U.S. intelligence forces, The New York Times reported.
AP reports:
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, described as the No. 2 behind Taliban founder and Osama bin Laden associate Mullah Muhammad Omar, has been in Pakistan's custody for several days...
Baradar was captured in Karachi, Pakistan, in a raid by Pakistan's Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, with CIA operatives accompanying the Pakistanis, the Times reported. Pakistan has been leading the interrogation of Baradar, but Americans were also involved, it said.
Baradar heads the Taliban's military council and was elevated in the body after the 2006 death of military chief Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Usmani. Baradar is known to coordinate the movement's military operations throughout the south and southwest of Afghanistan. His area of direct responsibility stretches over Kandahar, Helmand, Nimroz, Zabul and Uruzgan provinces.
If confirmed, Baradar's arrest would be a major setback for the Taliban.
He may also have information on the whereabouts of Omar and bin Laden.
CNN analyst Peter Bergen: This is a "huge deal... This guy...is the number two political figure in the Taliban."
Taliban claims Baradar is still free. "A spokesman for the Taliban in Afghanistan told The Associated Press that Baradar was still free, though he did not provide any evidence. 'We totally deny this rumor. He has not been arrested,' Zabiullah Mujahid told the AP by telephone. He said the report of the arrest was Western propaganda aimed at undercutting the Taliban fighting against an offensive in the southern Afghan town of Marjah, a Taliban haven. 'The Taliban are having success with our jihad. It is to try to demoralize the Taliban who are on jihad in Marjah and all of Afghanistan,' he said."
New York Times delayed publication of capture. From the Times report:
The New York Times learned of the operation on Thursday, but delayed reporting it at the request of White House officials, who contended that making it public would end a hugely successful intelligence-gathering effort. The officials said that the group's leaders had been unaware of Mullah Baradar's capture and that if it became public they might cover their tracks and become more careful about communicating with each other.
The Times is publishing the news now because White House officials acknowledged that the capture of Mullah Baradar was becoming widely known in the region.
What will be the impact of Baradar's capture? The initial consensus: who knows? Analysts seem to agree that the Baradar development is major news, but it's too early to say whether it will mark a major turning point in Afghanistan.
Joshua Foust at Registan effectively sums up the different possibilities:
Baradar supposedly runs the Quetta Shura, which is largely responsible for insurgent activity in the South - including the areas surrounding Marjeh. What his capture means for the day-to-day and strategic activities of the Taliban is unclear, though it could be game-changing.
On the other hand, the Taliban has weathered the death of senior, effective, influential figures before, like the former Taliban "senior military commander" until his death-by-America in 2007. The Taliban, notably, regrouped and kept on fighting hard.
At least in the short term, this could be a great wedge for the U.S. to wield against local powers. In the long term, it might actually mean little because he's really not that much of a wedge. [...]
Baradar wrote the Conduct Guidebook, which was meant to moderate some fo the Taliban's more nastier excesses. Much like the assassination of Nek Mohammed is what gave us five years of Baitullah Mehsud, there is a chance that Baradar's successor will be much worse. There is also the chance he'll be weaker and less formidable.
Worth reading his post in full.
Additional thoughts from Michael Cohen (who is more optimistic) and Gregg Carlstrom (who is less so).
1:43 AM ET -- Baradar 'providing intelligence.' So says the BBC, citing "senior officials."
1:33 AM ET -- More civilian deaths. "Three more Afghan civilians have been killed in the assault on a southern Taliban stronghold, NATO forces said Tuesday, highlighting the toll on the population from an offensive aimed at making them safer."
The AP has details:
The deaths -- in three separate incidents -- come after two errant U.S. missiles struck a house on the outskirts of the town of Marjah on Sunday, killing 12 people, half of them children. Afghan officials said Monday that three Taliban fighters were in the house at the time of the attack. [...]
In two of the most recently reported incidents, Afghan men came toward NATO forces and ignored shouts and hand signals to stop, NATO said. The troops shot at the men and killed them. One of the shootings appeared to match an incident previously reported by The Associated Press.
In the third incident, two Afghan men were caught in the crossfire between insurgents and NATO forces. Both were wounded and one died of his injuries despite being given medical care, NATO said.
Taliban fighters have stepped up counterattacks against Marines and Afghan soldiers in Marjah, slowing the allied advance to a crawl despite Afghan government claims that the insurgents are broken and on the run.
Taliban fighters appeared to be slipping under cover of darkness into compounds already deemed free of weapons and explosives, then opening fire on the Marines from behind U.S. lines.
Ackerman: Don't torture Baradar. Spencer Ackerman writes:
Apparently Baradar has been in custody since last week and is being interrogated by both the Paks and us. (This is why the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group exists.) The ultimate point of fighting the Taliban is to compel them to give up fighting and accept some version of a post-Taliban order in Afghanistan. Torturing Baradar -- which the Pakistanis have been known to do -- is counterproductive to that effort. If we treat the guy respectfully, in a demonstrated way, it might spur a reconsideration of Taliban goals. I am not counting any chickens, but any hope of a game-changing possibility will be foreclosed upon if we or our allies torture Baradar.
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12:52 AM ET -- Mapping the Marjah offensive.
READ MORE - Secret Raid Captures Taliban's Top Commander

Arrest of Mullah Omar's deputy a big success: US

Washington : The capture of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban's Number 2, is a big success to the Obama Administration and a personal blow to the elusive Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Omar, top US officials have said.

"This operation was an enormous success," a senior official told ABC News after the news about the arrest of Mullah Baradar was first reported by The New York Times.

"It is a very big deal," the official said, adding that Baradar is now providing intelligence.

A US counter-terrorism official, while refusing to confirm the news of Baradar's capture, told ABC News that "if he were taken off the battlefield, it would deal a major setback to the Afghan Taliban and be a personal blow to Mullah Omar, who has relied heavily on him for years.

Last summer, in an interview to the Newsweek, Mullah Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, the former foreign minister in the Taliban regime said that Omar has put Baradar in charge.

It was Omar's idea and his policy to stay quiet in a safe place, because he has a high price on his head, while Baradar leads.

Baradar had told the Newsweek in an interview, "The history of Afghanistan shows that Afghans never get tired of struggling until they have freed their country.

We shall continue our jihad till the expulsion of our enemy from our land."

In a news analysis, Stratfor, strategic think-tank said, "While his arrest is a major development in that never before has someone so senior been arrested since the Taliban was driven from power over eight years ago, it is unclear that this arrest will have a major impact on the battlefield.

"It is unlikely that a single individual would be the umbilical cord between the leadership council and the military commanders in the field, particularly a guerrilla force such as the Taliban," it said.

Even more significant than Baradar's capture will be the "how" of the event, it said.

"Initial reports suggest that Pakistani intelligence played a critical and perhaps decisive roll.

The timing of his arrest within days of the kicking off of the first major offensive in the US surge strategy, Operation Moshtarak, suggests that America and Pakistan are co-operating very closely, which though a major change in Islamabad's behaviour (given Pakistan?s historical relationship with the Afghan Taliban) is not entirely unexpected," Stratfor said.

"Until now US forces have been operating at a severe intelligence deficit, a major handicap in a guerrilla conflict.

Baradar's capture suggests that at least in some small way this intelligence deficit is being addressed," he said.
READ MORE - Arrest of Mullah Omar's deputy a big success: US

Blackwater, Now Xe, Vying For $1 Billion Contract To Train Afghan National Police

"Blackwater Worldwide's legal woes haven't dimmed the company's prospects in Afghanistan, where it's a contender to be a key part of President Barack Obama's strategy for stabilizing the country," the AP reported recently.
Now called Xe Services, the company is in the running for a Pentagon contract potentially worth $1 billion to train Afghanistan's troubled national police force. Xe has been shifting to training, aviation and logistics work after its security guards were accused of killing unarmed Iraqi civilians more than two years ago.
Yet even with a new name and focus, the expanded role would seem an unlikely one for Xe because Democrats have held such a negative opinion of the company following the Iraqi deaths, which are still reverberating in Baghdad and Washington.
During the presidential campaign, then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, now Obama's secretary of state, backed legislation to ban Blackwater and other private security contractors from Iraq.
Xe eventually lost its license to operate as guardian of U.S. diplomats in Iraq and the State Department, with Clinton at the helm, elected not to rehire the company when the contract expired in 2009. Delays in getting a new company in place led to a temporary extension of the State contract.
Derrick Crowe of Rethink Afghanistan notes that Xe is in the running for this contract "despite the fact that they've 'trained' the notoriously corrupt and incompetent Afghan Border Police. Recently, two Blackwater / Xe trainers were indicted for murdering Afghan civilians, and the company has a history of hiring people with a criminal record. Xe Services / Blackwater is a liability to the American cause around the world and doesn't deserve another dime of taxpayer money."
Rethink Afghanistan has posted a new video on the topic featuring Afghanistan-based correspondent Anand Gopal.


Read more here.
READ MORE - Blackwater, Now Xe, Vying For $1 Billion Contract To Train Afghan National Police

Pakistan Blast Kills U.S. Troops, Children, Say Local Officials

SHAHI KOTO, Pakistan — A roadside bomb killed three U.S. soldiers and partly destroyed a girls' school in northwest Pakistan on Wednesday in an attack that drew attention to a little-publicized American military training mission in the al-Qaida and Taliban heartland. They were the first known U.S. military fatalities in Pakistan's lawless tribal regions near the Afghan border and a major victory for militants who have been hit hard by a surge of U.S. missile strikes and a major Pakistani army offensive.
The blast also killed three schoolgirls and a Pakistani soldier who was traveling with the Americans. Two more U.S. soldiers were wounded, along with more than 100 other people, mostly students at the school, officials said.
Wired's Noah Shachtman suggests that these attacks underline the fact that, whether or not the U.S. government says so, we are fighting a full-blown war in Pakistan, and should start treating it as such:
It's another sign that America's once-small, once-secret war in Pakistan is growing bigger, more conventional, and busting out into the open. The U.S. Air Force now conducts flights over Pakistani soil. U.S. security contractors operate in the country. U.S. strikes are growing larger, more frequent, and more deadly; the latest attack reportedly involved 17 missiles and killed as many as 29 people. Billions of dollars in U.S. aid goes to Islamabad. And now, U.S. forces are dying in Pakistan.
Which begs the question: When are we going to start treating this conflict in Pakistan as a real war -- with real oversight and real disclosure about what the hell our people are really doing there? Maybe at one point, this conflict could've been swept under the rug as some classified CIA op. But that was billions of dollars and hundreds of Pakistani and American lives ago.
The attack took place in Lower Dir, which like much of the northwest is home to pockets of militants. The Pakistani army launched a major operation in Lower Dir and the nearby Swat Valley last year that succeeded in pushing the insurgents out, but isolated attacks have continued.
The Americans were traveling with Pakistani security officers in a five-car convoy that was hit by a bomb close to the Koto Girls High School.
"It was a very huge explosion that shattered my windows, filled my house with smoke and dust and also some human flesh fell in my yard," said Akber Khan, who lives some 50 yards (45 meters) from the blast site.

The explosion flattened much of the school, leaving books, bags and pens strewn in the rubble.
"It was a horrible situation," said Mohammad Siddiq, a 40-year-old guard at the school. "Many girls were wounded, crying for help and were trapped in the debris."
Siddiq said the death toll would have been much worse if the blast had occurred only minutes later because most of the girls were still playing in the yard and had not yet returned to classrooms, some of which collapsed.
"What was the fault of these innocent students?" said Mohammed Dawood, a resident who helped police dig the injured from the debris.
The soldiers were part of a small contingent of American soldiers training members of the paramilitary Frontier Corps, Pakistan's army and the U.S. Embassy said. The mission is trying to strengthen the ill-equipped and poorly trained outfit's ability to fight militants.
The soldiers were driving to attend the inauguration of a different girl's school, which had been renovated with U.S. humanitarian assistance, the embassy said in a statement. The school that was ravaged by the blast was not the one where the convoy was heading, security officials said.
U.S. special envoy to Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, said it did not appear that the attack directly targeted the Americans.
But the blast, which police said was detonated by remote control, hit the vehicle in which the Americans were traveling along with members of the Frontier Corps, according to Amjad Ali Shah, a local journalist traveling with the convoy to cover the school opening.
Holbrooke also said the U.S. has not tried to hide its training mission with the Pakistani military.
"There is nothing secret about their presence there," he told reporters in Washington.
Still, the attack will highlight the existence of U.S. troops in Pakistan at a time when anti-American sentiment is running high. U.S. and Pakistani authorities rarely talk about the American training program in the northwest out of fear it could generate a backlash.
Despite the presence of tens of thousands of U.S. forces in neighboring Afghanistan, Pakistan does not permit American troops to conduct military operations on its soil.
In a statement, the U.S. Embassy said three American military personnel were killed and two were wounded in the bombing. The Pakistani government condemned the attack in a statement that referred to the dead Americans only as U.S. nationals.
The last American killed in an attack in Pakistan was an American aid worker in the northwestern city of Peshawar in 2008.
Two Pakistani reporters traveling in the same convoy as the Americans said that Pakistani military guides referred to the foreigners traveling with them as journalists. Initial reports of the attack, which proved incorrect, said four foreign journalists had been killed.
Mohammad Israr Khan, who works for Khyber TV, said two of the foreigners were wearing civilian clothes, not uniforms or traditional Pakistani dress.
"When our convoy reached near a school in Shahi Koto, I heard a blast," Shah, the journalist said. "Our driver lost control and something hit me and I fell unconscious."
The Frontier Corps training program was never officially announced, a sign of the sensitivity for the Pakistani government of allowing U.S. troops on its territory. It began in 2008.
Frontier Corps officials have said the course includes classroom and field sessions. U.S. officials have said that the program is a "train-the-trainer" program and that the Americans are not carrying out operations.
After the bombing, the bodies of three foreigners and two injured were flown by helicopter to Islamabad and then taken to the city's Al-Shifa hospital, said a doctor there who asked his name not be used citing the sensitivity of the case. One of the injured had minor head wounds and the other had multiple fractures. The injured were later taken to a Pakistani military air base and flown out of the country, the doctor said.
READ MORE - Pakistan Blast Kills U.S. Troops, Children, Say Local Officials
 
 
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