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Bicycle Bomb Kills Five In Northwest Pakistan

The site of the bomb blast in Dera Ismail Khan
DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan (Reuters) -- A bomb planted on a bicycle exploded near a women's hostel in the northwestern Pakistani town of Dera Ismail Khan, killing five people and wounding 26, police have said.

Pakistan is struggling to stem growing insurgency by Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants, particularly in the northwest near the Afghan border.

"It was a cycle bomb. Five people died on the spot while the wounded were shifted to hospitals," police officer Bashir Khan said by telephone from the scene.

Khan declined to say if the women's hostel was the target. A hospital and a press club are also in the vicinity.

Dera Ismail Khan is 270 kilometers southwest of the capital, Islamabad, in Northwest Frontier Province.

It is near the border with the South Waziristan ethnic-Pashtun tribal region, a known sanctuary for Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants on the Afghan border.

Militants have unleashed a wave of suicide and bomb attacks and assassinations in response to military operations against them in the northwest, including the Swat Valley where insurgents are waging a violent campaign to enforce strict Islamic law.

Also on January 26, a man and a woman were killed when a mortar bomb fired by security forces at a militant hideout hit a house near Swat's main town of Mingora, residents and police said.

The scenic valley was until recently one of Pakistan's prime tourist destinations, but militants who began battling security forces in 2007 are now virtually in complete control, residents say.