Bomb kills 11 in Pakistan

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The Independent Online

A suicide bomber struck a restaurant in volatile northwest Pakistan today, killing at least 11 people, including pro-government fighters opposed to the country's top Taliban commander, intelligence officials said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which also wounded several people.

Pockets of the northwest are strongholds for Taliban and al-Qa'ida militants. Pakistan has staged military offensives in the area, while the US is suspected in dozens of missile strikes against militant targets there, including one that killed eight yesterday. The Pakistani government also has encouraged tribal leaders to form militias to ward off the insurgents.

The attack this morning, just outside the South Waziristan tribal region near the town of Tank, hit a roadside restaurant where some two dozen fighters loyal to pro-government leader Turkistan Bitani were eating, two intelligence officials told The Associated Press. Bitani was not present, they said.

Local resident Ibrahim Khan told The Associated Press by phone that he saw armed men trying to catch a young man in the vicinity of the restaurant.

"As the armed men grabbed that young man, he exploded a bomb," said Khan, who added he saw 11 bodies.

South Waziristan is the stronghold of Baitullah Mehsud, the top leader of the Pakistani Taliban and a Bitani rival. Yesterday, the US State Department announced a $5m bounty for Mehsud.

Mehsud spokesman Maulvi Umar called the suicide attack revenge for clashes last year.

"Turkistan Bitani's fighters killed 35 of our people last year, and we killed his people today in a suicide attack," Umar told The AP by phone.

Umar further condemned the US bounty for his commander, saying: "God will protect Baitullah Mehsud."

South Waziristan also was the site of yesterday's alleged US missile strike, whose death toll included several foreigners, according to two other intelligence officials. The strike damaged two vehicles near Makeen, a town that borders Afghanistan.