Pakistan bomb attack kills 17
Peshawar - A suspected suicide attack outside a local government office killed 17 people and wounded around 90 more in a busy market in Pakistan's lawless tribal area on Friday, officials said.
Local administration official Maqsood Ahmed said the blast took place in Yakaghund town in Mohmand, one of seven districts that make up Pakistan's tribal belt that Washington has branded a global headquarters of al-Qaeda.
The nuclear-armed Islamic republic is on the frontline of the US war against al-Qaeda and the Pakistani military is bogged down fighting home grown Taliban in its north western border areas that lie outside full government control.
Witnesses said there was a huge explosion that damaged shops, part of a local jail and other buildings in the small town not far from the border with Afghanistan, where 140 000 US-led foreign troops are fighting the Taliban.
"The initial report is that it was a suicide attack. The bomber came on a motorbike. We are investigating," said Ahmed. "We have six dead bodies and around 90 wounded."
Wave of bombings
Doctors at two local hospitals confirmed that six people had died. They gave a combined injury toll of 95. Casualties were also rushed for specialist treatment in the north western capital Peshawar.
A Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked bombing spree across Pakistan has killed more than 3 400 people in three years since government troops besieged a radical mosque in the capital Islamabad in July 2007.
Hugging the border with Afghanistan, where US and Nato allies are trying to end a nearly nine-year war, northwest Pakistan has suffered a wave of bombings causing mass casualties and insurgency, fanning fears about regional stability.
Pakistani leaders this week called for a landmark national conference to develop a strategy to counter the Islamist militant threat after a twin suicide attack killed 43 people at a shrine in Lahore on July 2.
In a rarity for the fractious world of Pakistani politics, the government said all major parties would be invited to the conference to find ways to eradicate terror and curb the problems of militancy. The details and date of the possible conference have not been made clear.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said sectarian militant groups based in the central Punjab province, Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba, are colluding with Taliban and al-Qaeda to recruit foot soldiers.
Young men were sent to training camps in the tribal belt and dispatched as bombers and militant cells back to Punjab and other cities, officials said.
Pakistani security forces have fought in the tribal belt and parts of the northwest for years, but deadly clashes are still largely a daily occurrence.