- Associated Press - Thursday, May 26, 2011

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A suicide bomber in a pickup truck detonated his explosives near several government offices Thursday in northwest Pakistan, killing at least 24 people in the latest violence to roil the country since the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in Hangu city. But the Pakistani Taliban have taken credit for other recent strikes, saying they are part of a campaign to avenge the al-Qaida leader’s death.

Hangu is a rough area located just outside Pakistan‘s lawless tribal regions bordering Afghanistan. The tribal areas have long been havens for al-Qaida and other militants.

Local police official Irshad Khan said the bomb went off near several government buildings, including the district commissioner’s office. Those buildings for the most part escaped the blast, he said, but numerous shops and other facilities nearby were damaged.

Senior police official Islamuddin Khan said at least 24 people were killed and 56 were wounded. The explosives were inside a double-cabin pickup truck that was driving through the area.

The May 2 U.S. Navy SEALs raid that killed bin Laden in the northwest Pakistani garrison city of Abbottabad has exposed the tensions between Washington and Islamabad as never before.

Pakistani officials are angry that the U.S. staged the raid without giving it warning, and they insist they had no idea bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad. The U.S. has said it had to maintain secrecy to ensure the operation’s success.

Since the raid, militants have staged several major attacks in Pakistan, including an extraordinary 18-hour siege of a naval base that killed 10 people and four insurgents. The attacks have further embarrassed the government and the country’s powerful security establishment.

The Pakistani Taliban have long justified their attacks on Pakistani soil because they oppose the government in Islamabad’s alliance with the United States.

Earlier Thursday, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said the country would use “all appropriate means” to attack militant hideouts on its soil. But he gave no indication the army was considering new offensives along the Afghan border.

The United States wants to see action in North Waziristan tribal region especially, where a deadly Afghan Taliban faction is based, to help it put pressure on Afghan insurgents and enable it to begin withdrawing troops later this summer after 10 years of war.

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