An explosion ripped through a restaurant and two munitions shops in a bazaar in a tribal town in northwestern Pakistan yesterday, killing at least 12 people and injuring more than 30, officials said.
It was not clear what caused the blast, but a preliminary report said a bomb went off in the restaurant, said Sajid Salim, a local government official. The injured were evacuated to a nearby hospital.
The explosion occurred around midday in Jandola, a town on the border of rugged South Waziristan, said Mir Abbas, a government administrator in the area. The restaurant, munitions shops and several other buildings were heavily damaged.
Intelligence officials said the blast killed at least 12 people, but a resident said many more people could have died in the explosion that happened at 8am, and came amid a spate of violence in the lawless region.
South Waziristan is part of Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal belt that stretches through rugged mountains and deserts along he border with Afghanistan.
Many al-Qaeda members fled to the region from Afghanistan after US-led forces ousted the Taliban in late 2001, and were given shelter by militant sympathizers from conservative Pashtun tribes that inhabit both sides of the border.
Also yesterday, the beheaded bodies of two members of a paramilitary force were found near, Wana, the main town in South Waziristan, said a member of the force, the South Waziristan Scouts.
The two men went missing on Tuesday when they and two colleagues went into Wana town in civilian clothes. The whereabouts of the other two men were not known, said the member of the force, who declined to be identified.
In neighboring North Waziristan, violence erupted on Tuesday when Islamic militants clashed with a bandit gang and 15 people were killed.
The militants strung up the bodies of five of the dead bandits and displayed the head of one on a pole.
At the weekend, authorities said an al-Qaeda commander, Abu Hamza Rabia, and four others were killed when bomb-making material stored at their hideout in North Waziristan detonated accidentally last week.
Villagers in the area said the blast was caused by a missile fired from an unidentified aircraft, possibly a US drone.
Unidentified gunmen on Monday kidnapped a journalist who had reported that Rabia was killed by a US missile and took photographs of what villagers said were fragments of the weapon.
The journalist, Hayatullah Khan, who worked for various publications including the Nation English-language newspaper, has not been seen since. Authorities say they are looking for him.