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Pakistan suicide blast kills 10

world Updated: Mar 26, 2009 17:42 IST

AFP
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A suicide bomber on Thursday killed 10 people at an inn near Pakistan's lawless tribal belt that borders Afghanistan, in an attack targeting opponents of the Taliban, officials said.

The suicide bomber blew himself up at the inn, where people meet for tea and meals, in Jandola, 85 kilometres (55 miles) west of Dera Ismail Khan, near the lawless tribal areas where Taliban and Al-Qaeda extremists are hunkered down.

"The death toll has gone up to 10," said local administration official Barkatullah, who goes by one name. The suicide bomber came to the inn and detonated his explosives as people tried to overpower him, the official said. Around 25 people were wounded, and several of them were in serious condition in hospital, Barkatullah said.

Local government official Farzand Ali Khan said the bomber targeted members of a peace committee, led by Haji Turkestan, which groups together tribesmen opposed to the Taliban and allied to the Pakistani authorities.

Turkestan, who surived at least four attacks last year, is a pro-government tribal elder from Jandola, near the South Waziristan tribal area. He was previously allied to Baituallah Mehsud, Pakistan's most-wanted militant, but later joined a peace committee with his Bhotani tribe to support the government's anti-militant drive, the local official said.

Turkestan's men were sitting in the compound when the bomber arrived. One of his supporters grabbed the attacker, who then blew himself up, witnesses said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but Khan suggested Taliban militants could have been responsible. Extremist attacks in Pakistan, a key US ally, have killed more than 1,600 people since government forces besieged gunmen holed up in a radical mosque in Islamabad in July 2007.

Much of the violence has been concentrated in northwest Pakistan, where the army has been bogged down fighting Taliban hardliners and Al-Qaeda extremists.

The United States, which is preparing to roll out a major new strategy in the war against Islamist militants in south Asia, on Wednesday offered up to 11 million dollars in rewards to find and capture three Al-Qaeda militants.

The rewards included a five-million-dollar bounty for the location or arrest of Mehsud, who heads the much feared Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The previous Pakistani government accused Mehsud of masterminding the 2007 assassination of ex-prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

"Mehsud is regarded as a key Al-Qaeda facilitator in the tribal areas of South Waziristan in Pakistan," the US State Department said. A rewards of five million dollars was offered for Sirajuddin Haqqani, a suspected leader of the Haqqani terror network founded by his father which has been linked to Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Another one million dollars has been offered for information about alleged Al-Qaeda member Abu Yahya al-Libi, a Libyan believed to be hiding in Pakistan or Afghanistan since escaping from US custody in Afghanistan in 2005.

US President Barack Obama has switched the focus of the "war on terror" from Iraq to Afghanistan, where US troops are fighting a Taliban-led insurgency.

Washington is preparing a major new strategy for the region, expected to be announced at an international meeting in the Netherlands on March 31, and US officials believe extremists in Pakistan pose a grave threat.

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