16 killed in Pakistan suicide attack
A suicide bomber blew himself up at a military checkpoint in northwest Pakistan's volatile tribal region yesterday, killing 16 people including two soldiers, officials said.
A man wearing a vest packed with explosives walked up to the post in Khar, the main town in the restive tribal region of Bajaur, and detonated himself, senior administration official Iqbal Khattak told AFP.
"The death toll has gone up to 16 including two paramilitary soldiers," he said. Another 23 people were wounded, with six in a critical condition, he added. The injured include one security official, Khattak said.
A senior military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the blast and military casualties.
The bomber was making his way to nearby government buildings and military barracks when he was stopped by soldiers, the official said.
Khattak later explained the soldiers were conducting a body search when the attacker blew himself up.
The checkpoint is in the town's main bazaar, which was shut after the blast.
Three vehicles and four shops were destroyed in the bombing, Khattak said.
Meanwhile, at least five suspected militants were killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan's tribal area near the Afghan border late Friday, officials said.
The attack targeted a militant compound in Muhammad Khel, a town in North Waziristan, a local government official said.
"Initial reports say at least five people were killed and there are fears the toll may go up," he said.
A security official, who also confirmed the toll, said the drone fired three missiles.
The compound was believed to be a centre for local Taliban and was also a base for insurgents belonging to the Haqqani network, which is known for staging attacks on US and Nato troops in Afghanistan
Officials also said the site was used by foreign fighters but the identity of the suspected insurgents killed in the attack was not immediately known.
Earlier Taliban militants shot dead two men in Pakistan's restive northwest tribal belt after accusing them of spying for the United States, officials said Saturday.
Their bullet-riddled bodies were found dumped by the side of a road in Datta Khel region, 15 kilometres (nine miles) south of Miranshah, the main town in the tribal North Waziristan region, local police officer Qayyum Khan told AFP.
They were local tribesmen who had been captured last month after a drone attack in the region killed 12 people, he said.
A note found near the bodies said "both were executed after an investigation showed they had been spying for US forces" operating across the border in Afghanistan.
Bajaur is in Pakistan's volatile tribal belt bordering Afghanistan. The area has become a stronghold for hundreds of Islamist extremists who fled Afghanistan after a US-led invasion ousted the hardline Taliban regime in Kabul in late 2001.
The suicide attack came a day after Pakistani security forces killed 24 suspected militants in air strikes and clashes on Friday in the district plagued by Taliban insurgents.
One paramilitary soldier was also killed and three wounded in Friday's clash in the town of Chinar in the district of Bajaur, which has been the site of a number of recent military offensives.
Jets and helicopter gunships have been pounding suspected militant hideouts since Tuesday, as the military step up operations in mountainous Bajaur, the scene of a major anti-militant operation launched in August 2008.
In February 2009 the army said the area had been secured and Taliban fighters crushed, but unrest swiftly flared up again and military operations have continued, part of a fresh assault on militants across the northwest.
Around 30,000 Pakistani troops backed by fighter jets and helicopter gunships went into the Taliban stronghold of South Waziristan in October, and the military says they are making progress and that militants are fleeing.
Washington has branded Pakistan's lawless tribal belt that runs along the Afghan border the most dangerous place in the world, rife with Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked militants plotting attacks on Western targets.
A volley of drone strikes, which fuel anti-American sentiment in the nuclear-armed Muslim nation, have hit the northwest this month.
The strikes have been concentrated on North Waziristan, a bastion of al-Qaeda fighters, the Taliban and the Haqqani network.