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Suicide Bomber Kills 10 In Pakistan

HANGU, Pakistan (Reuters) -- A suicide bomber has attacked a convoy of civilians guarded by security forces in Pakistan's northwest, killing at least 10 people and wounding 30, police said.

Suicide bombings have eased in recent weeks but it is not clear whether that is because security has improved after military gains against the Taliban, or if the insurgents are merely regrouping for more attacks.

"Our convoy was hit by a big explosion. It's all chaos here. I myself have seen four dead, two of them are children. I have seen four wounded women," said witness Javed Hussain, who was in the convoy of vehicles carrying Shi'ite Muslims to the city of Peshawar.

Pakistan's Taliban militants, who are Sunni Muslims, have carried out waves of bombings, killing hundreds of people and hitting everything from crowded markets to mosques to military and police facilities in their drive to topple the U.S.-backed government.

Shi'ites, a minority in Pakistan, have also been targeted.

"We have now a confirmed figure of 10 dead, including four women. Thirty wounded have been admitted to hospitals," Fazal Naeem, the regional police spokesman, said.

Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation, has launched two major offensives in the northwest over the past year against the Al-Qaeda-backed Taliban, who want to impose their austere version of Islamic rule.

The operations have destroyed militant bases, and Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud is widely believed to have been killed in a U.S. drone strike in January. His predecessor was killed in a similar strike in August.

But the Taliban have proven resilient, often melting away during government offensives to other parts of the lawless northwest, a global hub for militants.


That's one reason why Pakistan has resisted pressure to also go after Afghan Taliban groups who cross the frontier to attack Western forces in Afghanistan.

Pakistan says it lacks the resources to open up new fronts, and analysts say it sees those organizations as a counterweight to the influence of rival India in Afghanistan, which could witness a regional grab for influence if U.S. forces leave too soon and trigger chaos.

But despite resisting U.S. pressure to launch an offensive against Afghan Taliban factions, Pakistan has arrested several senior members of the Afghan Taliban in recent weeks including a top military commander, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.

A Pakistani TV channel said on Thursday a close associate of supreme Afghan Taliban commander Mullah Mohammad Omar had also been picked up in Pakistan.

The private ARY television channel said the Taliban official, Agha Jan Motasim had been detained in Karachi. But the government and military said they had no information about any such arrest.

Pakistan has confirmed it was holding only Baradar, the most high-profile capture of an Afghan Taliban official since the group was ousted in a U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

Analysts have said it was too early to say if the arrest of Baradar and the others represented a real change of Pakistan's policy of turning a blind eye to the militants and their support networks on its soil.

Pakistan wants to play a major role in any efforts to end the Afghan war, to ensure a long-term say in its western neighbor and keep Indian influence at bay.