Suicide bomber kills 16 at Pakistan checkpoint
9 others dead in suspected US hit
KHAR, Pakistan - A suicide bomber killed 16 people yesterday at a police checkpoint in a northwest Pakistani tribal area where the military declared victory over the Taliban and Al Qaeda last year, highlighting the difficulty Islamabad has in holding regions once the battle phase of its army offensives end.
Elsewhere in the lawless tribal belt bordering Afghanistan, suspected US missiles killed nine alleged militants, intelligence officials said.
Fourteen civilians and two police officers died in the suicide attack in the Bajur tribal region, while 20 people were wounded, local government official Bakhat Pacha said.
The attacker, on foot, struck a market area in the region’s main town, Khar, he said.
The attack occurred a day after officials said security forces had killed 44 militants in three days of battles on the outskirts of Khar.
Pakistan waged a major military offensive against Taliban and Al Qaeda insurgents in Bajur in 2008, declaring victory over the militants by February 2009. But in recent weeks, clashes and this latest suicide attack have signaled a deteriorating security situation in the area.
The violence comes as Pakistan’s army has focused on an offensive in South Waziristan tribal region, the primary stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban. That military operation is believed to have led many militants to flee to other parts of the tribal belt.
The United States has praised the Pakistani operations, but also wants Islamabad to pursue militants in North Waziristan, where many of the insurgent groups are focused on battling Western troops across the border in Afghanistan.
Washington has waged its own fight in Pakistan’s tribal territories through its covert CIA-led missile program.