Four soldiers among 13 killed in Pakistan blast (Second Lead)

May 19th, 2008 - 8:08 am ICT by admin  

DPA
Islamabad, May 18 (DPA) At least 13 people, including four security personnel, were killed and more than 20 were injured Sunday when a suicide bomber blew himself up near an army base in north-west Pakistan, officials said. The explosion occurred inside a military-run bakery near the Punjab Regimental Centre in Mardan district of North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

“The place was littered with blood and flesh,” a witness, Amir Khan, said. “Around 30 bodies were lying there. I do not know how many of them were dead.”

The killed and injured were moved to two hospitals in the city.

Bakht Khan, a health official, at the District Hospital confirmed that six bodies were moved there. Seven were brought to the Combined Military Hospital.

Six of the 22 injured were said to be in critical condition. Following the blast, the military cordoned off the area and several ambulances were lined up outside the bakery.

A security official who spoke on condition of anonymity said: “The militants might have targeted the bakery because every Sunday evening it is usually packed with army men.”

Military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said at least four security personnel were among the dead. He confirmed the blast was a suicide attack.

Pakistan’s NWFP province has seen dozens of deadly suicide attacks by pro-Taliban militants entrenched in the neighbouring tribal region that borders Afghanistan.

The new government offered peace talks to the militants in March resulting in a sharp decline in the militants’ attacks.

The two sides are currently carrying out a prisoner swap ahead of an expected formal peace deal.

More than 70 prisoners, including 18 security officials, have been released since Wednesday.

Asfand Yar Wali, the head of Awami National Party, which leads the provincial government in NWFP and is directly engaged in peace negotiations with rebels, condemned the attack.

“The attack is aimed at disrupting the peace process,” he said.

Under the planned peace accord, Pakistan will partially pull out its troops from the tribal belt, which is a safe haven for Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters launching cross-border attacks on international forces in Afghanistan.

This has raised concerns in Washington that wants Islamabad to go hard on insurgents.

“You cannot put restrictions on the military and let militants go free,” US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher said on Thursday.

The United States has repeatedly warned that its forces could target militant hideouts on Pakistani soil.

On Thursday, two guided missiles fired from a US drone landed upon the house of a local Taliban leader, killing more than a dozen people.

DPA

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