Saturday, October 11, 2008

PESHAWAR, Pakistan | A suicide bomber drove his car into an anti-Taliban tribal council meeting in northwest Pakistan on Friday, killing at least 30 people, officials said, the second suicide bombing in as many days.

Nearly 100 people were wounded in the attack in Orakzai region which comes a day after a suicide blast inside the heavily guarded police headquarters in the Pakistani capital in which eight policemen were wounded.

The bomber blew himself up when around 500 members of the Alizai tribe were gathered to draw up a strategy as part of government-backed efforts to drive out militants from tribal areas regarded as safe havens for al Qaeda fighters and their Taliban allies.

“We were discussing plans to take action against the militants when all of a sudden a man drove a car in the middle of the meeting, trampling few people and then blowing up the car,” said Qeemat Khan Orakzai, a tribal elder.

“I fell down and got unconscious. When I woke up, I saw dead and wounded around me.”

Qasim Khan, a doctor in a hospital in Orakzai, said 20 tribesmen died on the spot while about a dozen wounded people succumbed to their injuries on their way to the hospital.

“The lashkar had taken a decision to destroy militants’ headquarters in the region. Shortly afterwards, this attack took place,” said Kamran Zeb, top government administrator of Orakzai.

Orakzai has been the most peaceful of Pakistan’s seven semi-autonomous tribal regions. Unlike most of the others, Orakzai does not border Afghanistan.

Militant violence has intensified across Pakistan in recent months in apparent reaction to an army offensive against the militants in the rugged northwest including 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 council, officials said Friday.

Separately, Pakistani security forces, backed up 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 for a second day.

Pakistan, a frontline ally in the U.S.-led war on terrorism, has been under tremendous pressure from the United States to take stringent measures against militants’ sanctuaries in the border areas to stem their incursions into Afghanistan.

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.

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