Suicide attack kills 12 at Pak market | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 06, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, March 06, 2010

Suicide attack kills 12 at Pak market

A suicide bomber rammed a car full of explosives into a convoy of Shias in a Peshawar market yesterday, killing 12 people including women and children in Pakistan's latest sectarian attack.
The bomb sparked a large fire in the town of Tul, part of the northwestern district of Hangu, which is known for sectarian violence and lies near the lawless tribal belt, dubbed a "headquarters" for al-Qaeda by Washington.
In addition to the dead, more than two dozen other people were wounded in the blast, which occurred near a petrol station in the market, the senior administrator in the wider area of Kohat told AFP.
The convoy was under security escort as the Pakistani army has started protecting Shia vehicles following sectarian tensions.
Kohat commissioner Khalid Khan told AFP the dead included two women and two children and that 25 people were injured. "The target was a Shia convoy. This is sectarian violence," he said. Police said a curfew had been slapped on the market area.
Local lawmaker Mufti Janan Ahmed agreed the bombing was sectarian in nature.
He said the bomber ploughed his vehicle into the centre of the 20-vehicle convoy, which was carrying Shia travellers coming from the northwestern towns of Parachinar to Kohat. The victims mostly appeared to be Shias, he added.
Police official Islamuddin Khattak said the blast destroyed five vehicles and police were battling to extinguish the resulting blaze. The engine of the vehicle used in the attack had been found.
Sectarian violence between members of the majority Sunni population and minority Shia Muslims has killed more than 4,000 people in Pakistan since the late 1980s. Shias account for about 20 percent of the country's 167 million people.
More than 3,000 people have been killed in suicide and bomb attacks across Pakistan since July 2007, a campaign blamed on Islamist militants opposed to the government's alliance with the United States.
But after a significant rise in bloodshed in late 2009, there has been a marked decline in attacks so far this year.
Pakistani officials have linked the reduction to the suspected death -- still not confirmed -- of Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud and military offensives that have disrupted militant networks.
There have been no mass civilian losses or bombings in major cities since a bombing at a volleyball match killed 101 people on New Year's Day. That was around two weeks before the US drone attack that may have killed Mehsud.
Attacks targeting Shia Muslims killed 76 people in Karachi, Pakistan's largest city, in late December and early February.
Pakistan is under huge US pressure to eliminate Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked militants who pose a domestic threat and who infiltrate Afghanistan to attack Western forces.
Pakistan's military claims to have made big gains against Taliban and al-Qaeda strongholds over the past year, launching major offensives in the northwestern district of Swat and the tribal region of South Waziristan.
Washington says militants use Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal belt to plot and stage attacks in Afghanistan, where more than 120,000 Nato and US troops are helping Afghan forces battle the Taliban militia.

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