Sat, Sep 19, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Suicide bomber kills at least 25 in northwest Pakistan

REUTERS , KOHAT, PAKISTAN

A suicide car-bomber killed at least 25 people in northwest Pakistan yesterday in an explosion on a road that brought down nearby shops, police and witnesses said.

Militants have struck with bombs numerous times since intensifying their war against the government in 2007 but the Islamists have suffered setbacks this year raising government hope that the security forces might be getting the upper hand.

The bomb went off on a main road near the city of Kohat, 150km southwest of Islamabad, and brought down some shops beside the road, police and witnesses said.

“A restaurant and many shops have collapsed. It’s chaos here. There’s huge devastation,” said Ibn-e-Ali, a former judge and resident of the area.

“My house is 1km away, but the blast was so huge it felt as if it was next door,” he said.

Mehtab-ul-Hasan, top administrator of the region where the blast took place, said 25 to 30 people had been killed.

“Twenty bodies are lying beside me,” Hasan said by telephone.

Kohat is a garrison town, close to the lawless ethnic Pashtun tribal belt on the Afghan border.

The area where the attack took place is mostly inhabited by minority Shiite Muslims and there has been sectarian violence in the region in the past.

The Taliban militants are from the majority Sunni community and attacks on Shiites are part of their strategy to fight the government.

Pakistani forces have made gains against the militants in an offensive in the Swat valley, northwest of Islamabad.

Militant attacks have tapered off in recent weeks after the death of the Pakistani Taliban chief in a missile fired by a US drone aircraft on Aug. 5, but security officials say fighters loyal to al-Qaeda and the Taliban are still a serious threat.

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