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Fighting, suicide bombing kill 9 in Pakistan, say officials

world Updated: Aug 27, 2007 06:21 IST

Suspected Islamic militants attacked a military post, and a suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden vehicle into a police patrol in separate attacks in northwestern Pakistan that killed nine people, officials said. The suicide attacker struck a police pickup truck on a security patrol on Sunday in Shangla, a mountainous district in North West Frontier Province, a police officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to make media comments. Four officers were killed and two were wounded, he said.

Hours earlier, in the North Waziristan tribal region, south of Shangla, militants attacked a military post with rockets and assault rifles, killing one soldier. Troops at the post returned fire, killing four attackers, an intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of his job. Violence blamed on Islamic militants has spiked in recent weeks in northwestern Pakistan, including in the North and South Waziristan tribal areas that border Afghanistan.

Security officials have said that Arab, Central Asian and Afghan militants _ allegedly linked with Al-Qaida and the Taliban operate in the region.

The uptick in violence also comes amid increased US pressure on Pakistan's Washington-backed leader, President Gen Pervez Musharraf, to do more to crack down on militants in the country's tribal zone where a recent US intelligence report indicated Al-Qaida may be regrouping.

Musharraf, who is currently facing the toughest challenge yet to his rule, is also likely to face stiff opposition in his bid to seek another term as head of state in a vote expected later this year. In North Waziristan, militants have staged almost daily attacks on security forces since renouncing a peace agreement with the government. Militants accused authorities of violating the September 2006 deal by redeploying troops to checkpoints that they vacated under terms of the accord. Officials said the redeployment was aimed at improving deteriorating security.

The army's top spokesman, Maj Gen. Waheed Arshad, said on Friday that some 250 militants and 60 troops have died in a month of violence, including suicide and other attacks on security forces near the Afghan border.

Since becoming a close ally in the US war against terrorism following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, Pakistan has deployed some 90,000 troops to its border regions along Afghanistan to track down militants.