Bombing of military truck kills at least 14 in Pakistan
At least 14 people were killed Tuesday in the roadside bombing of a Pakistani military truck, an attack authorities blamed on Islamic militants.
The powerful blast occurred just outside Peshawar, the nearest large city to a tribal area along the border with Afghanistan that has been raked by fighting for nearly a week.
Islamic militants had threatened retaliation for a government military offensive in the Bajaur tribal agency, a suspected refuge of Al Qaeda figures and other insurgents.
The renewed violence comes amid an escalating political crisis over efforts by Pakistan’s ruling coalition, made up of former opposition parties, to expel President Pervez Musharraf from office.
That drive appeared to gain momentum Tuesday with a nonbinding vote by a second regional assembly calling on the embattled leader to face a vote of confidence or quit.
The passage of a resolution in the North-West Frontier Province followed a similarly lopsided ballot a day earlier by lawmakers in Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province.
The regional resolutions are seen as a prelude to a vote in the national parliament, which could formally set an impeachment process in motion this month. Musharraf’s aides have indicated that he will fight the effort to oust him.
The outbreak of fighting near the Afghan frontier has added to a sense of volatility across the country.
The explosion outside Peshawar hit an air force truck as it was crossing a heavily traveled bridge.
Passersby were among the dead; the Associated Press reported that one of those killed was a 5-year-old girl in a nearby car. A dozen people were reported hurt.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing through spokesman Maulvi Omar and threatened more such attacks.
The Pakistani military, meanwhile, pressed ahead with its offensive in the Bajaur tribal agency, with helicopter gunships firing on suspected militant hide-outs. Local reports said that at least five people were killed in the attack.
Thousands of frightened residents have fled the fighting, which has been the most serious to erupt in the tribal areas since the new civilian government took office five months ago.
Pakistani authorities say that at least 100 militants and nine paramilitary troops have been killed in the Bajaur fighting, but militant commanders dispute the toll.
Special correspondent Zulfiqar Ali in Peshawar contributed to this report.