Pakistan: 25 dead in suicide bomb, US missile hit

Overnight Saturday, three suspected US missiles hit a compound and a bunker in the Mohammad Khel area of North Waziristan, part of a surge in the drone-fired strikes.

January 31, 2010 09:07
2 minute read.
Pakistan violence

Pakistan violence. (photo credit: AP)


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A suicide bomber killed 16 people at a police checkpoint in a northwestern Pakistani tribal area where the military declared victory over the Taliban and al-Qaida last year, highlighting the difficulty Islamabad has in holding regions once the battle phase of its army offensives end.

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Elsewhere in the lawless tribal belt bordering Afghanistan, suspected US missiles killed nine alleged militants, intelligence officials said.

Fourteen civilians and two police officers died in the suicide attack Saturday in the Bajur tribal region, while 20 people were wounded, local government official Bakhat Pacha said. The attacker, on foot, struck a market area in the region's main town, Khar, he said.

Some of the wounded were in critical condition at hospitals, he said.

The attack came a day after officials said security forces had killed 44 terrorists in three days of battles on the outskirts of Khar.

Pakistan waged a major military offensive against Taliban and al-Qaida insurgents in Bajur in 2008, declaring victory over the Islamists by February 2009. But in recent weeks, clashes and now this latest suicide attack have signaled a deteriorating security situation in the area.

The violence comes as Pakistan's army has focused on an offensive in the South Waziristan tribal region, the primary stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban. That military operation is believed to have led many militants to flee to other parts of the tribal belt.

The US has praised the Pakistani operations, but also wants Islamabad to pursue terrorists in North Waziristan, where many of the insurgent groups are focused on battling Western troops across the border in Afghanistan.

Washington has waged its own fight in Pakistan's tribal territories through its covert CIA-led missile program.

Overnight Saturday, three suspected US missiles hit a compound and a bunker in the Mohammad Khel area of North Waziristan, part of a surge in the drone-fired strikes, Pakistani intelligence officials said. The mountainous area is where a suspected US drone is reported to have crashed on Jan. 24, they added.

Two missiles in Saturday's attack hit the compound being used by the terrorists, killing seven of them, the intelligence officials said. The third killed two more insurgents in the bunker, they said.

Another such missile strike early this month targeted a meeting of Islamist commanders in an apparently unsuccessful attempt to kill Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud.

The Pakistani Taliban are believed to have played a role in the Dec. 30 suicide bombing of a remote CIA base in Afghanistan's eastern Khost province that killed seven of the agency's employees. Analysts suspect the Haqqani network, an al-Qaida-linked Afghan Taliban faction based in North Waziristan, also helped carry out the CIA attack.

Since the CIA was hit, the US has carried out 13 suspected drone strikes in North and South Waziristan, an unprecedented volley of attacks since the missile program began in earnest in Pakistan two years ago.

The three officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information to the media.

The US does not usually comment on the strikes or their targets, but officials have said in the past that they have taken out several senior al-Qaida and Taliban leaders. The Pakistani government publicly condemns the strikes as violations of its sovereignty, yet it is thought to have a secret deal with Washington allowing them.

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