By Michael E. Sanchez
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
KHAR, Pakistan- A suicide bomber blew himself up at a military checkpoint in a market in northwest- Pakistan on Saturday, officials said.
Senior administration official Iqbal Khattak told the Associated Foreign Press that a man wearing a vest packed with explosives walked up to the post in Khar, the main town in the restive tribal region in Bajaur, and detonated himself. “So far 12 deaths have been confirmed, two of them were paramilitary soldiers,” he said. Mr. Khattak also added that more than 20 others, all civilians, were wounded. A senior military official, speaking anonymously, confirmed the blast and casualties.
The suicide bomber wanted to proceed towards the government buildings and military barracks nearby, but the soldiers stopped him. The soldiers were killed when the bomber blew himself up. The checkpoint resides in the town’s main bazaar which was shut down after the blast. Mr. Khattak said three vehicles and four shops were destroyed in the bombing.
Bajaur lies in Pakistan’s volatile tribal belt region bordering Afghanistan. Since the ouster of the hardline Taliban regime from Kabul in late 2001, Bajaur has become a stronghold for hundreds of Islamist extremists.
The attack came a day after Pakistani security forces killed at least 24 suspected militants in air strikes and clashes in Bajaur. One paramilitary soldier was killed and three wounded in Friday’s clash.
Helicopter gunships and jets have pounded suspected militant hideouts since Tuesday, as the military step up operations in the region, the scene of a major anti-militant operation launched in August 2008.
In February 2009, the army said Bajaur had been cleared of Taliban militants following the August 2008 operation. But security situation has been deteriorating. The BBC’s Islamabad-based Aleem Maqbool says the numerous attacks over the last six months show the militants still possess a significant presence in the area.
Close to the Afghan border, Bajaur has been suspected of being the hiding-place of top al-Qaeda leaders such as Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Pakistan’s military has been focusing on a major offensive, launched in October, nearby throughout the Talibban stronghold of South Waziristan.
For more information please see:
BBC News- Suicide Bomber Attacks Checkpoint In Pakistan -30 January 2010
AFP- 12 Killed In NW Pakistan Suicide Attack: Officials– 30 January 2010
The Long Way Journal- Suicide Bomber Kills 12 Pakistanis In Bajaur– 30 January 2010