ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan's army chief has denied accusations that the military is seeking to oust the country's civilian government amid tension over a secret memo scandal.
Gen. Pervez Ashfaq Kayani said in a statement released Friday the army would continue to support democracy and respect the constitution.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani claimed on Thursday there was a conspiracy under way to oust the government. He did not specifically point to the military, but said the army cannot operate as a "state within a state."
The army is the strongest institution in Pakistan and has ruled the country for much of its history after carrying out a series of coups.
Current tension was generated by a memo sent to Washington in May asking for help in averting a supposed coup.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistani Taliban fighters attacked a paramilitary fort in northwestern Pakistan on Friday, killing one soldier and kidnapping 15 others, police said. The brazen attack was followed by a statement to media in which the militants said they would kill the abducted troops.
Armed with assault rifles, at least 35 militants targeted the Frontier Corps fort in Tank district before dawn, said local police chief Ejad Abid. The militants burned down buildings and captured a significant amount of weapons, he said.
One soldier was killed and two were wounded in the fighting, said Abid. Another 15 are still missing and believed to have been kidnapped, he said.
Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan claimed responsibility for the attack in a phone call to The Associated Press and said it was carried out to avenge the death of a local Taliban commander. He claimed 30 soldiers were kidnapped.
But another Taliban commander who said he carried out the attack, Asmatullah Shaheen, told the AP that he had 15 soldiers in his custody. Some others managed to escape after the militants captured them, he said.
Abid, the police chief, said at least 22 soldiers were missing originally, but seven managed to return.
Shaheen said the militant commander being avenged, Taj Gul, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in October in South Waziristan, an important sanctuary for the Pakistani Taliban next to Tank.
The militants attacked the Pakistani soldiers in response because of the country's alliance with the U.S., he said.
Ehsan, the Taliban spokesman, said the militants have no intention of bargaining for the kidnapped soldiers' release and intend to kill them.
"We are going to cut these soldiers into pieces one by one, and we will send these pieces to their commanders," said Ehsan.
Dawar reported from Peshawar, Pakistan.