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Pakistani Taliban Claim Bomb Attack On UN Office

Police commandos guard a UN office in the wake of the suicide blast on October 5.
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) -- Pakistani Taliban militants have claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack on a UN office in which five people were killed saying the United Nations was a U.S. slave.

A suicide bomber dressed as a paramilitary soldier blew himself up in an office of the UN World Food Program (WFP) in the capital, Islamabad, on October 5, killing five members of staff including an Iraqi.

"We accept responsibility for the attack in Islamabad," Azam Tariq, a spokesman for the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (Taliban Movement in Pakistan), said in a telephone call to a Reuters journalist in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

"All these organizations are slaves of the United States," Tariq said when asked why the aid agency, which is helping millions of impoverished Pakistanis, was targeted.

Pakistan security forces have made gains this year against Al-Qaeda-linked Pakistani Taliban militants who have set off numerous bombs in towns and cities aimed at security forces and government and foreign targets.

But the October 5 attack on the tightly guarded UN office was a setback for hopes that the militants were in disarray and on the back foot following the killing of their leader, Baitullah Mehsud, in a U.S. missile attack in August.

The United Nations temporarily closed its office in Pakistan after the blast for security reasons, a UN spokeswoman said, adding security would be reviewed on October 7.

Tariq accused the United Nations of turning a blind eye to atrocities in ethnic Pashtun tribal regions on the Afghan border, militant strongholds which the army has been attacking and where U.S. drone aircraft have launched deadly missiles.

"Why can't the United Nations see the atrocities being committed in Waziristan and other tribal areas?" he said referring to a region known as a hub of Taliban and Al-Qaeda activity.

Offensive Imminent?

The government ordered the army to launch an offensive against the Pakistani Taliban in their South Waziristan bastion in June.

The security forces have been launching air and artillery strikes, while moving in troops, blockading the region and trying to split off factions.

Speculation is rising that a ground offensive is imminent but the army has declined to say when that might begin.

Tariq said the Pakistani Taliban reserved the right to carry out more attacks in the face of the threats of an offensive. The Taliban were fully prepared to confront and defeat "Obama and his associates," he said.

Speculation about an assault on South Waziristan comes as the United States has been stepping up pressure on Pakistan to go after Afghan Taliban factions based in northwestern enclaves.

With Afghan violence reaching new heights, the United States is weighing options on how to deal with the insurgency eight years after driving the Taliban from power.

The Pakistani Taliban swear allegiance to Mullah Mohammad Omar, chief of the Afghan Taliban, who are fighting to expel Western forces.

The Pakistani Taliban support that aim and also want their version of Islamist rule in Pakistan.