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Weekend Blasts Kill 16 Children In Pakistan

MIRANSHAH, Pakistan (Reuters) -- Four children and their parents have been killed in a hand-grenade blast in Pakistan's restive northwest, a day after 12 children were killed by a bomb hidden in a football.

Violence has increased in the region as Taliban fighters have extended their reach. Western allies, needing Pakistan's help to defeat Al-Qaeda and stabilize neighboring Afghanistan, fear the country is in danger of sliding into chaos.

The grenade exploded in a car carrying a couple and their eight children near Datta Kheil, a district in the North Waziristan tribal region, near the Afghan border.

"The parents and four of their children died instantly and their bodies were brought to hospital," Mirbad Khan, a hospital official in Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan, said. "Four other children were wounded."

Authorities were unsure whether the parents were carrying the grenade, or if it was planted in the car.

North Waziristan is one of the major sanctuaries for Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants in Pakistani border areas with Afghanistan.

On April 25, 12 children were killed when they were playing with a bomb hidden in a football exploded in Lower Dir, a mountainous, district 260 kilometers northeast of Miranshah.

The children, five of them girls, found the ball as they were returning from school. Seven victims belonged to the same family.

Dir is part of the Malakand division of Northwest Frontier Province, where President Asif Ali Zardari this month sanctioned the imposition of Islamic Shari'a law under a controversial deal aimed at ending conflict with Taliban militants in Swat Valley.

But just days after Zardari's move, fighters in Swat intruded into neighboring pasts of Malakand, closer to the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.

Western governments have criticized Pakistan for cutting deals, saying the strategys will encourage militants.

Pakistani officials say they are trying to use political means to reduce the violence, but signs are emerging that the government is preparing to unleash the military.