Taliban militants blew up a girls' school in Pakistan's Khyber district Monday, officials said, as two soldiers and seven insurgents were killed in clashes in the northwest tribal belt.
The pre-dawn school attack took place in Saddokhel town in northwest Khyber tribal district, where militants detonated explosives planted around the building, destroying all five school rooms but causing no injuries.
"They are Taliban. They are the same people who do not want children to get an education," senior administration official Rahim Gul Khattak told AFP.
Islamist militants opposed to co-education have destroyed hundreds of schools, mostly for girls, in the northwest of the country in recent years as they wage a fierce insurgency to enforce Sharia law.
Pakistani troops launched an offensive in Khyber district in September to try and flush out both the Taliban and homegrown militant group Lashkar-e-Islam (Army of Islam), led by feared warlord Mangal Bagh.
The fabled Khyber tribal region is the main land bridge to neighbouring Afghanistan and is also close to the northwest provincial capital Peshawar, which has been hit by a series of suicide bombings in recent months.
Pakistan's military is engaged in offensives against Islamist fighters across much of the northwest including the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, a region branded by Washington as the most dangerous place on earth.
About 30,000 troops poured into South Waziristan in mid October to try and dismantle the strongholds of the Taliban leadership, enraging militants who have responded with a surge in bomb blasts and attacks.
In other unrest over the weekend, two Pakistani soldiers and seven militants were killed in a clash on Sunday in Orakzai tribal district, while helicopter gunships also pounded rebel hideouts, security officials said.
"We launched an operation against a militant hideout on a tip-off from our intelligence. An exchange of gunfire erupted lasting three hours during which we killed seven militants," a security official told AFP.
"Two of our soldiers were martyred in the clash," he added.
Many Taliban fighters are believed to have fled their sanctuaries in South Waziristan and headed to tribal districts further north, and troops are pursuing them in an efforts to quash the militant movement.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told reporters Saturday that Orakzai might be the focus of the next full-scale military assault.