Taliban attacks claim more victims in Pakistan

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The Independent Online

A suicide bomber killed seven people near a major air force complex in north-west Pakistan today while an explosion killed 17 on a bus heading to a wedding elsewhere in the region.

The bloodshed has coincided with the run-up and first week of a major army offensive in a Taliban and al Qaida stronghold along the Afghan border.

Around 200 people have died as the insurgents showed they can strike in a variety of ways and places.

A lone suicide bomber on a bicycle blew himself up at a checkpoint on a road leading to the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex at Kamra, the country's major air force maintenance and research hub around 30 miles from Islamabad. Police blamed the Taliban for the attack.

Hours later, a car bomb exploded in the car park of a health centre in Peshawar, the main city in the north-west.

Soon after, reports emerged of the blast that struck the bus travelling to a wedding in the Mohmand tribal region. Four women and three children were among the 17 killed, said Zabit Khan, a local government official.

"It appears to be a remote-controlled bomb, and militants might have hit the bus mistakenly," he said.

Mohmand, like other parts of Pakistan's tribal belt, has been a magnet for Taliban militants. The military has carried out operations there in the past aimed at clearing out insurgents but trouble still flares.

There have been at least nine major militant attacks this month, most against police or army targets.

Some have been explosions, while others have involved teams of gunmen staging raids. In one of the most brazen attacks, gunmen attacked the army headquarters close to the capital and held hostages inside the complex for 22 hours.

Pakistan is under intense pressure to eliminate Islamist militant groups sheltering in its north-west that also Nato troops in Afghanistan. The military has battled them in various districts, losing hundreds of soldiers, but questions remain about its overall strategic commitment to the fight.

It began its current offensive in South Waziristan tribal region seven days ago.