- The Washington Times - Monday, January 4, 2010

PARACHINAR, Pakistan | Roadside bombs struck two vehicles in Pakistan’s volatile northwest Sunday, killing a former irrigation minister and three others in one attack and two anti-Taliban tribal elders in the other.

Public officials and private citizens combating the growing Taliban-led insurgency in Pakistan have been frequent targets in a wave of violence that has killed more than 600 people in the past 2½ months.

A single attack two days ago killed nearly 100 people, when a suicide car bomber struck a sports event near a meeting of tribesmen who supervise an anti-Taliban militia near Pakistan’s South Waziristan tribal area.

The Pakistani army invaded South Waziristan in mid-October in an attempt to neutralize the Pakistani Taliban’s main stronghold in the country, but many militants fled the offensive and have been launching attacks elsewhere in the northwest.

The Pakistani government has pledged it will persevere despite the violence, but has resisted U.S. calls to expand its offensive to target militants launching cross-border attacks against coalition troops in Afghanistan.

The U.S. has responded by increasing drone missile strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas, including a suspected attack Sunday in North Waziristan that killed at least five people, according to intelligence officials.

The suspected drone attack near the town of Mir Ali in North Waziristan targeted the house of a well-known tribesman and a vehicle nearby, said intelligence officials. One of the five killed in the attack was the tribesman’s grandson, said the officials.

Hours earlier, a roadside bomb struck a vehicle in the Hangu district of North West Frontier Province, killing former Irrigation Minister Ghaniur Rehman, his two guards and his driver, said district police chief Abdur Rasheed. Two police officers accompanying the former minister were wounded in the attack, he said.

Mr. Rehman was affiliated with the Pakistan Peoples Party (Sherpao group) headed by former Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao, who has survived two suicide-bomb attacks.

The attack came after a roadside bomb struck a vehicle carrying anti-Taliban elders in the Bajur tribal area, killing two and critically wounding four others, said local official Naseeb Shah. The six men were working to set up an anti-Taliban militia in Bajur, a stronghold for militants near the Afghan border, he said.

The men were on their way to meet local officials in the main town of Khar when the remote-controlled device detonated, Mr. Shah said. The blast occurred near Kassai, about 17 miles northeast of Khar, he said.

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