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Bombs kill 15 in Pakistan; US drone reported down

world Updated: Mar 08, 2009 08:10 IST

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Three separate bombings killed 15 people in northwestern Pakistan, while authorities investigated reports that a pilotless US drone crashed elsewhere in the militant-plagued region bordering Afghanistan.

The bombings Saturday, coming days after gunmen attacked Sri Lanka's visiting cricket team, were a fresh reminder of the militant threat in Pakistan, where Western leaders worry that a growing political feud could distract the government from tackling the extremists head on.

Al-Qaida and Taliban fighters are believed to use pockets of Pakistan's northwest as bases to plan attacks on US and NATO forces in Afghanistan. The US has used drones to fire missiles against militants in the area, prompting protests from Pakistani officials who say the attacks fuel anti-American sentiment. Saturday's reports of a drone crash came from Angoor Ada village in South Waziristan, a tribal region where the main Pakistani Taliban leader, Baitullah Mehsud, is based.

Army spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas said authorities were investigating the reports. Two intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, said their informants and agents had yet to locate wreckage.

The US rarely discusses the missile operations, and the drones are believed to be CIA-operated. Col. Greg Julian, the top US military spokesman in Afghanistan, declined to comment on reports of the crash.

Militants have staged numerous attacks against Pakistani security forces in recent years, but one Saturday _ a car bombing _ was unusual in that a body was used to lure police, officials said. Local police chief Rahim Shah said police went to the Badaber area after an unknown caller told them of a body in a parked car. Residents and police had recently evicted militants from the area, prompting threats of retaliation.

"They found the white car. They also saw a body inside, but when they were pulling it out, the car bomb went off," Shah said. Seven police and a bystander were killed.

Meanwhile, a roadside bomb killed three civilians and wounded four troops Saturday in the town of Darra Adam Khel. In the Khyber tribal region, a suicide bomber killed four people and wounded five at a mosque that served as a headquarters for the militant group Ansarul Islam, government official Sadiq Khan said. Ansarul Islam is the rival of another extremist group, Lashkar-e-Islam, Khan said.

Last Tuesday, heavily armed gunmen attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore in Punjab province, killing six police and a driver and wounding several players before fleeing unscathed. Punjab is the stronghold of Pakistani opposition leader Nawaz Sharif. The federal government recently dismissed the provincial government, led by Sharif's brother, after a court disqualified the Sharifs from elected office. Their party plans to participate in a massive march on the capital in the coming week organized by lawyers calling for an independent judiciary.