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Posts Tagged ‘Peshawar’

Burqa-clad suicide bomber kills 40 in Pakistan

Posted by Admin on December 26, 2010

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) – A burqa-clad suicide bomber attacked a crowd of people waiting for aid in Pakistan on Saturday, killing at least 40 of them, officials said, showing militants’ ability to strike despite army offensives.

The attack in the Bajaur region on the Afghan border came a day after fierce clashes between Pakistani Taliban insurgents and security forces in the neighboring Mohmand region that left 11 soldiers and 24 militants dead.

“I myself have counted 40 bodies but the death toll could rise as several wounded people are in critical condition,” Dosti Rehman, an official at the main government hospital in Bajaur, told Reuters.

Zakir Hussain, the top government official in Bajaur, confirmed the death toll and said 60 tribesmen were wounded. He said the death toll could rise as some of the wounded were in critical condition. Several women and children were among casualties, officials said.

The suicide bomber, who was wearing a head-to-toe burqa but whose gender has not been ascertained, detonated explosives as hundreds of people from the Salarzai tribe were heading toward a food distribution center. The World Food Programme (WFP) set up the center for people forced from their homes by earlier fighting between security forces and al Qaeda-linked militants.

A WFP spokesman said the attack took place where people were being screened at a security checkpoint near their center.

Witnesses said the attacker first threw hand grenades at tribesmen before detonating the bomb.

“First there were two small explosions and people started running for cover. But within seconds there was a major blast and there were dead bodies scattered everywhere,” witness Hussain Ahmed said. “It was very terrifying.”

ANTI-TALIBAN TRIBE

The Salarzais are a major regional anti-Taliban tribe, which has been backing army operations against the militants.

Militants have infested Pakistan’s volatile ethnic Pashtun tribal lands on the Afghan border, and the army has mounted a series of operations to dislodge them.

Salarzai tribesmen have been instrumental in raising lashkars, or tribal militia, to back the government’s operations against the militants.

A Taliban spokesman, Azam Tariq, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that it was retaliation for “Salarazais activities against the Taliban.”

Militants have attacked pro-government tribes in the past to punish them for supporting the government.

Hundreds of militants have been killed and many of their strongholds captured but the insurgents have shown they are able to strike back and have killed hundreds of people in a campaign of bomb attacks across the country.

On Friday, about 150 Taliban militants staged simultaneous attacks on five paramilitary checkpoints in the Baizai area of the Mohmand tribal agency, killing 11 soldiers and wounding a dozen, officials said.

At least 24 militants were killed by defending paramilitary forces but government officials said the militant death toll rose to 40 as 16 more insurgents were killed in air raids by the security forces.

A Taliban spokesman on Friday confirmed clashes but disputed the official death toll, saying only two of their fighters were killed.

Officials have claimed several times that militants have been driven out of Bajaur. A senior military official in October said it would take at least six months to clear militants from Bajaur and Mohmand.

(Additional reporting by Izaz Mohmand and Sahibzada Saeed-ur-Rehman; Writing by Zeeshan Haider; Editing by Chris Allbritton and Daniel Magnowski)

(For more Reuters coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan, see: http://www.reuters.com/places/pakistan.

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Pakistani officials: US missiles kill 54 in NW

Posted by Admin on December 17, 2010

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101217/ap_on_re_as/as_pakistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan – Three American missile attacks killed 54 alleged militants Friday close to the Afghan border, an unusually high number of victims that included commanders of a Taliban-allied group that were holding a meeting, Pakistani officials said.

The attacks took place in the Khyber tribal region, which has been rarely struck by American missiles before over the last three years. That could indicate a possible expansion of the CIA-led covert campaign of drone strikes inside Pakistani territory.

The Obama administration has intensified missile attacks in northwest Pakistan since taking office, desperate to weaken insurgent networks there that U.S. officials say are behind much of the violence againstU.S. troops just across the frontier in Afghanistan.

The first strike targeted two vehicles in the Sandana area of the Tirah Valley, killing seven militants and wounding another nine. The men were believed to belong to the Pakistani Taliban, one of the country’s largest and deadliest insurgent groups.

Later, missiles hit a compound in Speen Darang village where the Lashkar-e-Islam, a Taliban affiliate known to be strong in Khyber, were meeting, killing 32 people, among them commanders. The third strike took place in Narai Baba village and killed 15 militants, the officials said.

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

U.S. officials do not acknowledge firing the missiles, much less comment on who they are targeting. It is impossible to independently report on the aftermath of the attacks because outsiders are not allowed to visit the tribal regions. Human rights groups say there are significant numbers of civilian casualties in the attacks.

Most of the more than 100 missile attacks this year inside Pakistan have taken place in North Waziristan, which is effectively under the control of a mix of Taliban, al-Qaida and related groups. The region, seen as the major militant sanctuary in Pakistan, has yet to see an offensive by the Pakistani military.

On Thursday, President Obama urged Pakistan to do more in tackling extremists in the border lands. Pakistan’s army has moved into several tribal regions over the last two years, but says it lacks the troops to launch a North Waziristan operation anytime soon and hold gains it has made elsewhere.

U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter said the United States would like the Pakistani army to move into North Waziristan “tomorrow” but that he believed Islamabad’s stated reasons for not attacking the region immediately.

“I think there is a capacity issue,” Munter told reporters Friday. “There is a great amount of capacity being used in holding the ground the Pakistani army has won at great cost.”

Pakistani officials protest the missile strikes, but are believed to secretly authorize and provide intelligence on at least some of them. Analysts also say targeting information for many of the attacks is likely to be provided by Pakistani intelligence officials.

Also Friday, police said nine people were killed by mortar rounds fired by suspected Sunni extremists in two attacks in the northwest. The presumed targets in Hangu district and the nearby tribal area of Kurram were Shiite Muslims, said Hangu police chief Abdur Rasheed.

In Hangu, three mortars missed a Shiite mosque, hitting a house, killing six and wounding eight. In Kurram, a mortar hit a house, killing three, he said.

Anti-Shiite militants in Pakistan predate al-Qaida and the Taliban, which are also Sunni. These days, the groups are firmly allied and have overlapping memberships. They generally believe it is acceptable, even meritorious, to kill Pakistan’s minority Shiites because they consider them heretics.

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Associated Press writers Nahal Toosi in Islamabad, Ishtiaq Mehsud in Dera Ismail Khan and Hussain Afzal reporting from Parachinar.

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