Pakistan roadside bomb kills 14

Fourteen people were killed today when a roadside bomb hit a Pakistan air force truck as the military pounded insurgent positions in a nearby tribal region.

The blast hit the vehicle on a bridge on the outskirts of Peshawar, provincial police chief Malik Naveed Khan said. The truck was travelling between the city and the nearby air force base in Badaber.

Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik said al Qaida-linked militants were likely to be behind the attack. He said Pakistan had been taking action against Taliban militants, but he did not say whether the attack was a response to recent military operations in the region.

"It is our firm resolve that we will root out terrorism from Pakistan, and all of our security agencies are working together to achieve this goal," he said.

The powerful explosion went off around 11am and tore a large hole in the bridge, reducing the Mazda truck to a smouldering wreck. The site was littered with debris, blood and also the mangled wreckage of a motorcycle.

A crowd of bystanders gathered at the scene as victims were ferried away in white minivan ambulances. Firefighters hosed down the blackened carcass of the truck, and air force investigators gathered evidence.

Air force spokesman Group Captain Tariq Mahmood said the truck was used to transport supplies to the air force base and had been returning to Peshawar when the blast happened.

A bomb disposal officer at the scene said it was planted under the bridge and contained between 30 and 40kg of explosives.

The bombing follows threats from Taliban militants to launch attacks on the government in retaliation for military operations in the north-western frontier region bordering Afghanistan.

It came as Pakistani army gunship helicopters attacked suspected militant positions in the Bajur tribal area.

Officials have said about 100 militants and nine paramilitary troops have been killed in the clashes so far. Thousands of residents have reportedly fled the area.