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Sixteen Killed In Twin Bomb Attacks In NW Pakistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) -- Two car-bomb blasts have killed at least 16 people in northwestern Pakistan, evidence militants still have power to strike despite the death of a top Taliban commander last month.

A suicide bomber sitting in an explosives-laden car threw a hand-grenade toward a crowd of people in the main northwestern city of Peshawar before detonating about 100 kilograms of explosives in the vehicle.

"Ten people have been killed and 71 wounded, five of them critically," Sahibzada Anis, the top government administrator of the city told Reuters.

The attack took place in the carpark of a commercial building close to a military hospital.

Television footage showed car parts and debris from nearby buildings scattered over the road. An elderly man wearing a blood-stained shirt was seen helping a wounded young woman walking away from the scene of the blast.

"It was terrible. My children are very frightened. All the windows of my house are broken. It was very frightening," Beenish Asad, a housewife living near the site of the blast told Reuters by telephone.

Police said they detained two suspects at the scene.

Police Building Hit

The Peshawar attack came hours after a Taliban suicide bomber crashed his explosives-laden truck into a police station in the town of Bannu in Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP), killing six people. Thirty people, most of them policemen, were wounded.

Bannu is gateway to North Waziristan, a volatile tribal region on the Afghan border and a major sanctuary for Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants fighting both in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Qari Hussain, a Taliban commander, called Reuters by telephone to take responsibility for the Bannu attack.

"The government was taking undue advantage of our silence. We will carry out more such attacks and these will be much more powerful," Hussain said.

Militant attacks have tapered off after the death of Pakistani Taliban chief and Al-Qaeda ally Baitullah Mehsud in a missile strike by a pilotless U.S. drone in August.

Pakistani forces have made significant gains against the militants after they launched an offensive in northwestern Swat valley in late April, which helped allay international fears about the stability of the nuclear-armed U.S. ally after militants made advances toward the capital, Islamabad.

But government and security officials say militants loyal to Al-Qaeda still pose a serious threat.

Mian Iftikhar Hussain, NWFP information minister, said the attacks were aimed at avenging the government offensive against the militants in Swat.

"We are not scared of these people and we have to extend our operations wherever these terrorists are operating," he told reporters.

President Asif Ali Zardari, who is in New York for the UN General Assembly session, condemned the twin attacks and said "terrorism and extremism would be rooted out from the country with full force."