- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 27, 2009

PESHAWAR, Pakistan | Two suicide attacks killed 16 people and wounded more than 150 in northwest Pakistan on Saturday, showing that Taliban militants are still able to strike despite heightened military operations and the slaying of their leader last month.

A Taliban spokesman called the Associated Press after the first bombing outside a police station to claim responsibility and warn of more blasts. He claimed the militants had been holding back on attacks but that any such “pause” was now over.

The suicide car bomb outside a police station in Bannu district destroyed the building, killing six people and wounding 70, said Police Chief Mohammed Farid.

Hours later, a second car bomber struck outside a bank run by an army welfare foundation in Peshawar, the largest city in the northwest, police said. Ten people were killed and 79 wounded, said Sahibzada Mohammed Anis, a senior government official.

The blast overturned vehicles, gutted buildings and scattered glass everywhere. Most of the casualties were customers in the bank or people outside.

A third bomb exploded in the northern town of Gilgit, wounding four people, Pakistan’s SAMA news channel quoted Police Chief Ali Sher as saying. He described it as a “low-intensity bomb” but provided no further details.

Taliban spokesman Qari Hussain Mehsud urged civilians to stay away from police and security force installations.

“We have broken the silence as the government did not understand the pause in attacks, and from now there will be an increase in the number of suicide bombings,” he warned in a telephone call from an undisclosed location.

Mehsud - known for training Taliban suicide bombers - had warned of more attacks in an AP interview on Thursday, saying, “We will send suicide bombers only if the government acts against us.”

Last month, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, was killed in a CIA missile strike in the northwest. While the militants have named a new leader, some have speculated the group may have lost some of its ability to stage attacks.

Earlier this month, the government claimed to have killed more than 150 militants in an operation in the Khyber agency, which lies close to Peshawar.

But the Taliban or affiliated Islamist militants have continued to carry out attacks in recent weeks.

Militants ambushed a convoy of prominent anti-Taliban tribal elders in Bannu district Thursday, spraying their cars with gunfire and killing nine people. Pakistani authorities have urged tribal elders to speak out against the Taliban, and in turn the militants have killed scores of local leaders.

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