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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Suicide bomber kills 7 in Pakistan's northwest

Reuters story on Washington Post by Hasan Mehmood

Sunday, April 18, 2010; 6:59 AM

KOHAT, Pakistan (Reuters) - A suicide car-bomber killed seven people and wounded 26 in an attack on a police station in Pakistan's northwest on Sunday, police said, the second attack in the volatile region in as many days.

On Saturday, two suicide bombers in the Kohat region attacked people displaced by fighting between the army and militants, killing 41 and wounding 65.

Security forces have made significant gains against militants in offensives over the past year, clearing the Islamist fighters from strongholds in the Swat valley and in the regions of South Waziristan and Bajaur on the Afghan border.

But the militants have demonstrated time and again they have the capacity to strike back with gun and bomb attacks in towns and cities.

On Sunday, the bomber drove a van into a roadblock outside a police station in Kohat town.

"Seven people including a child were killed and 26 people wounded, five of them policemen," a top police official, Abdullah Khan, told Reuters.

Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility in a telephone call to police in Kohat, police said later.

A militant spokesman had said the attack on the police station was in response to police arrests and the killing of militants, said a police spokesman in Kohat town.

A group affiliated with Pakistan's Taliban claimed responsibility for Saturday's attack on a center where displaced people were registering for aid, about 40 km (25 miles) away from the site of Sunday's attack.

After its offensives in Swat, South Waziristan and Bajaur, the military has been attacking militants in other areas, including the Orakzai region, where many of the Islamists who fled the earlier offensives are believed to have taken refuge.

The army says more than 300 militants had been killed in fighting in recent weeks in Orakzai and the Kurram region but there has been no independent confirmation of the deaths.

Pakistani Taliban often dismiss military estimates of militant casualties.

About 13 militants were killed in clashes in the Orakzai region on Sunday, security officials said.

The security forces' successes over the past year have eased fears nuclear-armed Pakistan, a vital ally for the United States as it struggles to stabilize Afghanistan, was sliding into chaos, although unabated bombings may still be a source of worry.

(Additional reporting by Sami Paracha and Alamgir Bitani; Writing by Augustine Anthony; Editing by Robert Birsel and Paul Tait)

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