- Associated Press - Sunday, January 13, 2013

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan (AP) — A roadside bomb hit a Pakistani army convoy Sunday in a mountainous militant stronghold in the northwest, killing 14 soldiers in one of the deadliest attacks against the army in that sector, intelligence officials said.

The North Waziristan tribal area is a major trouble spot that the military has been reluctant to tackle. The remote region is home to Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda militants at war with the government. It is also used as a sanctuary by other militants who have focused their attacks in neighboring Afghanistan.

The attack Sunday occurred near Dosalli village in North Waziristan, said Pakistani intelligence officials. The blast destroyed two vehicles and damaged a third, they said.

The 14 dead and 20 wounded were brought to a military hospital in the nearby town of Miran Shah, the officials said.

Pakistani military officials confirmed the bombing but said four soldiers were killed and 11 others wounded. The discrepancy could not immediately be reconciled.

Then officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.

The Pakistani military is worried that targeting its enemies in North Waziristan could trigger a backlash whereby other militants in the area turn against Pakistan. The most powerful group in the area, the Afghan Haqqani network, also is believed to be seen by the army as a potential ally in Afghanistan after foreign forces withdraw, making a military offensive even more complicated.

North Waziristan has been a sore point in relations between Pakistan and the United States. Washington repeatedly has pushed Islamabad to launch an operation in the area, especially against the Haqqani network, considered one of the most dangerous groups fighting in Afghanistan, but Pakistan has refused.

North Waziristan also has become an increasing problem for Pakistan. It is the only part of the tribal region in which the army has not conducted an offensive, and many Pakistani Taliban militants have fled there to escape army operations. The Taliban and their allies have staged hundreds of attacks across Pakistan that have killed thousands of people.

One of those allies, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, carried out a twin bombing at a billiards hall in the southwest city of Quetta on Thursday that killed 86 people. The attack targeted minority Shiite Muslims, whom many radical Sunnis consider heretics.

Thousands of Shiites protested in Quetta for a third day Sunday, pressing their demands for greater security by blocking a main road with dozens of coffins of relatives killed in the attack on the billiards hall.

Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf traveled to Quetta on Sunday and met with representatives from the Shiite community in an attempt to pacify the protesters, said Dawood Agha, who attended the meeting.

The country’s religious affairs minister failed the day before to persuade them to bury those killed in attack.

The group is demanding that the provincial government be dismissed and the army take over responsibility for the city, Shiite leader Ibrahim Hazara said.

On Saturday the prime minister ordered authorities to give policing powers to paramilitary forces in Quetta to improve law and order, but the move did not appear to satisfy the protesters.

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