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10 Oct 2008 15:56
A suicide bomber killed at least 20 people in an attack on a tribal council meeting in Pakistan’s north-west Orakzai region on Friday, an official and a tribal elder said.
Seventy people were wounded in the attack, which comes a day after a suicide bombing at the heavily guarded police headquarters in the Pakistani capital in which 8 policemen were wounded.
Pakistani tribesman backed by authorities were trying to raise militia groups in Orakzai to drive out militants from areas regarded as safe havens for al-Qaeda fighters and their Taliban allies when the bomber struck.
“We were busy in raising a lashkar [a tribal militia] to evict Taliban from the region when this attack took place,” Qeemat Khan Orakzai, a member of the council, told Reuters.
Kamran Zeb, top government administrator of Orakzai, said the death toll could rise further. “The lashkar had taken a decision to destroy militants’ headquarters in the region.
Shortly afterwards, this attack took place,” he told Reuters.
Orakzai has been the most peaceful of Pakistan’s seven semi-autonomous tribal regions.
Militant violence has intensified across Pakistan in recent months in apparent reaction to an army offensive against the militants in the rugged north-west, including the Bajaur and Swat regions.
In Bajaur, which is a tribal area north of Orakzai, tribesmen found bodies of four colleagues who were believed to have been abducted by the militants after they agreed to become part of a tribal lashkar, officials said on Friday.
Separately, Pakistani security forces, backed by helicopter gunships, killed at least five militants in an offensive in Swat, an alpine valley once popular with tourists.
The attacks came as Pakistan’s newly appointed intelligence chief briefed lawmakers on the internal security threat in a closed joint session of Parliament.
Pakistan, a frontline ally in the United States-led war on terrorism, has been under tremendous pressure from the US to take stringent measures against militants’ sanctuaries in the border areas to stem their incursions into Afghanistan.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, widower of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who herself was killed in a suicide attack, vowed on Thursday to rid his country of terrorism.
The United States has carried out at least nine missile attacks, the latest on Thursday night, and a commando raid on militant targets in Pakistan’s tribal areas since the start of September.
Six people, including three Arab militants, were killed in Thursday’s drone strike in North Waziristan tribal region.—Reuters
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