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The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for a roadside bomb attack Wednesday morning that left three American soldiers and three Pakistani schoolgirls dead, while wounding at least 45 others. The attack occurred during the opening ceremony of a girls’ school in the Lower Dir district of Pakistan’s federally administered tribal areas. According to a statement released by the American embassy in Islamabad, “The Americans were U.S. military personnel in Pakistan to conduct training at the invitation of the Pakistan Frontier Corps. They were in Lower Dir to attend the inauguration ceremony of a school for girls that had recently been renovated with U.S. humanitarian assistance.” A Taliban spokesman said that the bombing was a response to recent American drone attacks in the region, one of which is thought to have killed Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban. “It’s revenge for the bomb blasts carried out by Blackwater in Pakistan," the spokesman said, referring to the American private military contractor that now goes by the name Xe Services—a corporate re-branding necessitated in the wake of a September 2007 firefight by employees in Iraq that left at least a dozen civilians dead. Xe was a subcontractor to the CIA for loading bombs on drones, but that contract was canceled in December. (Xe, however, still provides "security and support" services.) The company has become a notorious symbol of U.S. involvement in the country, stoking suspicion and anti-American sentiment among many prominent Pakistanis. In the aftermath of the December 30 suicide attack that killed 8 CIA operatives in Afghanistan, the United States has increased its drone activity in Pakistan’s federally administered tribal areas, a region from which many U.S. intelligence officials believe Afghan insurgents draw their support.
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