By JERUSALEM POST STAFFPublished: NOVEMBER 19, 2009 09:18Advertisement
A suicide bomber killed 16 people Thursday outside a courthouse in northwestern Pakistan, the latest attack in an onslaught by Islamist militants fighting back against an army offensive in the nearby Afghan border region.
A doctor said 26 people were wounded in the blast in the main northwestern city of Peshawar.
Thursday's bombing was the sixth in less than two weeks in and around Peshawar; the attacks have killed more than 80 people.
Police officers were searching a man at the gate of the city's lower court when he detonated explosives on his body, government official Sahibzada Anees said.
Several damaged motorbikes were strewn about the site, and firefighters sprayed water on a charred, smoking white car.
Dr. Saib Gul said 16 bodies had been taken to the city's Lady Reading Hospital.
The army launched its offensive against the Pakistani Taliban in South Waziristan in mid-October. It has retaken many towns in the region, but the militants say they avoided fighting and will now begin a guerrilla campaign.
Since the beginning of October, more than 300 people have been killed in attacks on government, civilian and western targets in the country, most of them in the northwest.
The explosion occurred hours after missiles fired from a suspected US drone killed three suspected militants in Shana Khuwara village in North Waziristan, another region close to the Afghan border region where al-Qaida and Taliban hold sway.
The missiles hit a house owned by a local tribesman just after midnight, said two intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
Ahmed Noor Wazir, who witnessed the attack, said rescuers pulled three dead bodies and four badly wounded men from the rubble of the house, which was being used by Taliban militants.
Shana Khuwara village is not far from the border with South Waziristan. Many militants are believed to have fled to North Waziristan to escape the fighting.
It was the third suspected drone strike since Pakistan launched the operation in mid-October.
The pace of the attacks has slowed since the offensive began, possibly to avoid the perception that the US is aiding the Pakistani army with the operation.
Anti-American sentiment is pervasive throughout Pakistan, and the drone strikes are unpopular because they often kill innocent civilians.
The Americans rarely discuss the missile strikes, and although the Pakistanis publicly condemn them as violations of their sovereignty, many analysts believe the two countries have a secret deal allowing them.
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