Suicide bombs kill 12, wound scores in Pakistan
Two suicide car bombs killed at least 12 people and wounded dozens in separate attacks in northwest Pakistan on Saturday, just days after the Taliban warned more suicide strikes were coming if the military pressed forward with an army offensive, AP reported.
Pakistan's mountainous, lawless northwest region along the Afghan border - where the government holds little control - is a favored area for insurgents to plan attacks on U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, as well as on Pakistani security forces and government workers.
A bomb detonated outside a bank affiliated with the army in Peshawar, the capital of North West Frontier Province, killing at least six people and wounding dozens more, police chief Liaquat Ali Khan said.
An Associated Press reporter at the scene saw vehicles overturned by the blast, buildings gutted and glass scattered everywhere. Most of the casualties were customers in the bank or people loitering outside.
"We saw body parts in the car and our investigation confirms it was a suicide attack," said Malik Shafqat, a police official in Peshawar.
A suicide blast also hit a police station in the province's Bannu district earlier Saturday, killing at least six people and wounding nearly 70 others, police said. The Taliban claimed responsibility for that attack.
The latest strikes came two days after the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan said it was ready to stage more suicide attacks in the region after it was ousted from the Swat Valley in July by an army offensive.
Qari Hussain Mehsud - known for training Taliban suicide bombers - warned of more attacks in an AP interview at a secret location in North Waziristan on Thursday, just hours before U.S. missiles hit the area and killed 12 people.
"We have enough suicide bombers and they are asking me to let them sacrifice their lives in the name of Islam, but we will send suicide bombers only if the government acts against us," he said in the interview.
The U.S. has fired dozens of missiles from unmanned drones to take out top Taliban and al-Qaida leaders in the northwest over the past year. Although Pakistan routinely protests the strikes, it is widely believed to secretly cooperate with them.
A CIA drone attack felled former Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud on Aug. 5.
Qari Hussain Mehsud phoned the AP to claim responsibility for the police station attack Saturday. "We have broken the silence as the government did not understand the pause in attacks, and from now there will be an increase in the number of suicide bombings," he warned.
He urged civilians to stay away from police and security force installations.
Taliban attacks surged in the region last week. Militants ambushed a convoy of prominent anti-Taliban tribal elders in Bannu district on Thursday, spraying their cars with gunfire and killing nine people. Pakistani authorities have urged tribal elders to speak out against the Taliban, and in turn the militants have killed scores of local leaders.