Peshawar, Pakistan (AFP) Dec 18, 2009
A suicide bomber rammed a car into a mosque during Friday prayers killing 11 people in northwest Pakistan, while a US missile strike pounded the troubled region leaving seven militants dead.
The unrest comes as Pakistan wages multiple military offensives against Taliban insurgents across the northwest, prompting a wave of retaliatory suicide bombings hitting both security and civilian targets.
Washington, meanwhile, has been piling the pressure on Pakistan to dismantle Islamist extremist networks along its lawless and porous border with Afghanistan, where about 113,000 NATO and US troops are stationed.
Friday's suicide bombing struck a mosque next to local police headquarters in Taimergara town in Lower Dir district, the focus of a spring military offensive to oust militants advancing closer towards the capital Islamabad.
"The bomber was riding a car and he rammed his car into the outer gate of the mosque," said Muhammad Idrees Khan, deputy district police chief.
Local television showed a huge plume of smoke rising from a small town in the mountains, while charred cars smoldered beside the blast site.
"We have received three more dead bodies taking the death toll to 11. There are 29 injured people with us, some of them in a critical condition," said Doctor Wakeel Mohammad Khan, head of the main hospital in Lower Dir.
More than 2,700 people have been killed in attacks in Pakistan since July 2007, with the past three months seeing a surge in dramatic attacks.
On December 4, suicide bombers stormed a mosque frequented by army officers in Pakistan's garrison city of Rawalpindi during Friday prayers leaving 40 people dead in an onslaught of gunfire, grenades and explosions.
Lower Dir borders the Swat valley, which slipped out of government control in July 2007 after radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah mounted a violent campaign to enforce Islamic sharia law.
The army launched an offensive in April and says at least 2,150 militants have been killed in Swat and neighbouring Buner and Lower Dir districts, but sporadic attacks continue to plague the mountain region.
Pakistan's military has expanded operations into much of the northwest Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) bordering Afghanistan, a region branded the most dangerous place on Earth by Washington.
In FATA's North Waziristan district Friday, the third US drone missile strike in two days left seven militants dead, security officials said.
The strike hit a village in the Dattakhel region close to North Waziristan's main town Miranshah -- the same northwestern area where two strikes hours apart on Thursday killed at least 14 militants and destroyed their hideouts.
"The US drone fired four missiles hitting a house, a compound and some makeshift buildings. At least seven militants were killed and five were injured," a security official in the northwest capital Peshawar told AFP.
"It looks like some key Taliban or Al-Qaeda figures are hiding in this area and that's why the drones are targeting this area again and again."
An intelligence official in Miranshah confirmed the death toll. Officials refused to be named because of the sensitivity of the US strikes, which have inflamed anti-American sentiment.
North Waziristan is rife with Taliban militants, Al-Qaeda fighters and members of the Haqqani network, a powerful group known for staging attacks on foreign troops in Afghanistan.
The area has seen a rise in US strikes since President Barack Obama took office and put the country on the frontline of the war on Al-Qaeda.
North Waziristan neighbours South Waziristan, where Pakistan has been focusing its most ambitious offensive yet against homegrown Taliban militants, sending about 30,000 troops into the region on October 17.
But Washington and London are pressuring Pakistan to do more to capture Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and prevent militants crossing the border and targeting foreign troops in Afghanistan.
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14 killed in US drone strikes in NW Pakistan: officials
Miranshah, Pakistan (AFP) Dec 17, 2009
Two separate US missile strikes killed at least 14 militants in northwest Pakistan Thursday, officials said, as Islamabad faces growing US pressure to dismantle Islamist extremist networks. The attacks hours apart by unmanned US drone aircraft hit suspected militant hideouts in the same area of North Waziristan, part of the lawless tribal belt branded the most dangerous place in the world by ... read more
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