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Bomb Blast Kills Six In Northwest Pakistan

A man pulls a stretcher carrying bomb blast victims outside a hospital in Peshawar.
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) -- A bomb planted in a vehicle has gone off near a gas station in northwestern Pakistan, killing six people, including two women and three children, and wounding eight, police said.

There has been a lull in militant violence in Pakistan in recent weeks after security forces pushed back Taliban insurgents in the northwestern Swat Valley and stepped up attacks on Pakistani Taliban in the South Waziristan region.

Senior police officer Sifwat Ghayyur told reporters on August 17 in the town of Charssada, where the blast took place, that the bomb was hidden in a box of medicine given to the vehicle's driver to deliver in a nearby village.

"It was a time-device which went off when the driver stopped to get petrol. Two women, three children and the driver were killed," Ghayyur said.

Taliban militants claimed responsibility.

"We did it because these people were from a tribe which raised a lashkar against us," a militant spokesman in the region, Qari Shakeel, said by telephone, referring to a pro-government militia.

The military went on the offensive against Pakistani Taliban in the Swat Valley in the northwest in late April, which initially triggered more bomb attacks by militants.

After three months, the army has killed or driven out many militants from Swat in what has been widely seen as a successful operation.

The army push has allayed fears among Pakistan's allies, in particular the United States and other countries with troops in neighboring Afghanistan, that nuclear-armed Pakistan was failing to get to grips with spreading Islamist violence.

'Curfew In Parts Of Swat'

Pakistani efforts to suppress militants on its side of the border are vital for a U.S.-led bid to stabilize Afghanistan, where the Taliban have threatened to disrupt the August 20 presidential election.

Bomb attacks have become rarer in recent weeks although the reason for that is not clear.

But the August 17 blast and two recent suicide bombings in Swat that killed five soldiers, raises fears that the militants are reorganizing. No top Taliban leader has been killed or captured in the Swat offensive.

On August 17, authorities reimposed a daytime curfew in parts of Swat to hunt for militants, a military spokesman said.

"We have some information that some militants are hiding on the outskirts of Mingora, and it's difficult to carry out a search when there are people around," said the spokesman Lieutenant Akhtar Abbas, in Swat's main town of Mingora.

The army says the valley has been largely secured but troops still encounter pockets of resistance. The fighting forced nearly 2 million people from their homes but many have returned.