ISLAMABAD (Reuters) -- A suicide bomber has killed a Pakistani soldier and wounded nine, highlighting the growing militant threat a day after the top U.S. commander in the region held security talks with Pakistani leaders.
The attack on a paramilitary post in the northwestern town of Doaba was the latest in an intensifying campaign by Islamist militants that has raised fears for Pakistan, a nuclear-armed U.S. ally also facing an economic crisis.
Doaba police official Omar Faraz Khattack said initially soldiers were wounded: "One of them died on the way to hospital and one is seriously wounded."
Another police officer said a human head, apparently that of the suicide bomber, had been found at the scene.
Violence has intensified in Pakistan, most of it in the northwest, since last year with a series of suicide attacks, most on the police, military, and political leaders, in which hundreds of people have been killed.
The military has been battling Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants in two parts of the northwest since August, and the militants have stepped up their attacks in response.
General David Petraeus arrived in Pakistan on November 2 at the beginning of his first foreign tour since taking charge of U.S. Central Command, underscoring U.S. concern about a country seen as crucial to stability in Afghanistan and to defeating Al-Qaeda.
U.S. analysts say Pakistan is facing a major threat from Islamist militants at a time when its new civilian government is engulfed in economic problems.
The United States says militant sanctuaries in northwest Pakistan are the biggest threat to Afghan security.
The Petraeus visit comes as relations between the United States and Pakistan have been strained by a series of crossborder U.S. strikes, most by missile-firing pilotless drone aircraft, on militant targets in Pakistan.
President Asif Ali Zardari told Petraeus in talks on November 3 the attacks should stop.
Pakistan says the strikes are a violation of its sovereignty and are counterproductive, undermining efforts to isolate the militants and rally public opinion behind the unpopular campaign against militancy, which many people see as America's war.
Petraeus told CNN that Pakistani leaders had been forthright.
"In fact, we got certain messages with each of those we talked to ... and some of those were very clear and we have to take those on board," Petraeus said. "This is a partnership, a cooperative endeavor designed to achieve mutual goals and mutual interests and so we have to clearly accept that."
The United States and NATO are losing ground against an escalating Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, despite the presence of 64,000 Western troops, while Al-Qaeda has regained strength in Pakistan's tribal region.
Apparently, frustration over deteriorating Afghan security has led to the more aggressive U.S. crossborder action, while at the same time there have been suggestions that elements in Pakistani security agencies had been tipping off militants about imminent U.S. strikes.
Petraeus said he brought that up in his "very frank and very forthright" talks. He also said Pakistan was aware of the threat it faced and was committed to acting on it.
"All parties recognize the nature of the threat, the significance of the extremist activity, and the threat it poses to this country, to Afghanistan and beyond this region."