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Blast in Pakistan market kills 8; U.S. drone strikes
Sun Jun 14, 2009 7:28am EDT
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By Mustansar Baluch
DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan (Reuters) - A bomb blast in a market killed eight people in northwest Pakistan on Sunday, the latest in a wave of attacks since the army launched an offensive against Taliban militants.
Nuclear-armed Pakistan is struggling to push back a growing Taliban insurgency and security forces have made progress in more than a month of fighting against militants in the Swat valley, northwest of Islamabad.
The militants have responded with a string of bombs in towns and cities.
Separately on Sunday, a suspected U.S. drone aircraft fired a missile in the South Waziristan region, a stronghold of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, killing three militants traveling in a vehicle, a witness and officials said.
The bomb in a market in the northwestern town of Dera Ismail Khan killed eight people and wounded 25, a government official said.
"The initial probe suggests that the device was planted in a push-cart parked in the middle of the market," Syed Mohsin Shah, the top government official in the city, told Reuters.
Rising violence has raised fears for Pakistan's stability and for the safety of its nuclear arsenal but the offensive in Swat has reassured the United States, which needs its Muslim ally's help to defeat al Qaeda and stabilize neighboring Afghanistan.
The United States, alarmed by the deteriorating security in Afghanistan, has been using drone aircraft to attack Taliban and al Qaeda fighters in northwestern Pakistani militant strongholds.
The drone strike on Sunday, the first since May 16, was in Laddah, in South Waziristan, about 60 km (40 miles) north of the region's main town of Wana.
"The missile destroyed the vehicle and I saw three bodies lying next to it," ethnic Pashtun tribal leader Habibullah Mehsud told Reuters by telephone from the region on the Afghan border.
A government official in the region confirmed the attack, saying drones had been flying over South Waziristan since early morning. The identity of the dead militants was not known.
Though a staunch U.S. ally, Pakistan objects to the U.S. missile strikes saying they violate its sovereignty and undermine efforts to deal with militancy because they inflame public anger and bolster militant support.
Pakistani warplanes struck another Mehsud stronghold in south Waziristan on Saturday in retaliation for the killing of an anti-Taliban cleric in a suicide bomb attack in the city of Lahore the previous day.
The air strike killed 30 militants, including few foreigners, and wounded 50,the military said in a statement on Sunday. Continued...
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