Pakistan suicide car bomb kills at least 30


At least 30 people were killed in a suicide car bomb blast at a polling station in northwestern Pakistan yesterday, during a byelection for a provincial assembly seat, police said. An explosive-laden car rammed into a queue of people waiting to vote.

"The death toll has reached to 30. It could rise further," said Behraman Khan, head of the police station near the Buner town where the blast took place said. "It was a suicide attack."

Buner lies next to Swat, a valley in which the Pakistani army has been in a full-scale operation against Taliban-linked insurgents for over a year.

The suicide attacker pulled his car outside the polling station, and asked people to push the vehicle, saying that it had broken down, said Iftikhar Hussain, a minister in the North West Frontier Province regional government.

"His purpose was to gather the maximum people around the car. The moment people started pushing the car, he blew it up," Mr Hussain said, adding that the attacker's message was that "it is not possible to hold a peaceful election" in Pakistan.

A police official in the area said four children were among the dead and their bodies were mutilated beyond recognition. Mr Khan said about a dozen people were wounded.

The school building where the polling station was set up collapsed after the blast.

The latest violence in Pakistan northwest comes as the country is pulling troops out of the area, in order to redeploy them along its eastern frontier with India. Since Mumbai was attacked last month by terrorists, who Delhi says came from Pakistan, the two countries have faced-off in an ever more tense confrontation.

It is feared that the movement of troops in Pakistan will divert its army's attention from the threat of Taliban extremists in its western region and inside the Federally Administered Tribal Area (Fata), which borders Afghanistan.

These militants have been targeting Pakistani forces in Pakistan and the international coalition across the border in Afghanistan.

"For Islamabad, the threat posed by terrorists operating out of Fata and from along the western border to this country's internal security and stability is no less tangible; it just cannot afford to redeploy any large number of its troops on the eastern border, leaving the 'wild' west in a free fall," Pakistan's Dawn newspaper said in an editorial published yesterday.

In another incident yesterday suspected militants executed three men on suspicion of spying for Pakistani and US forces in Afghanistan in the North Waziristan region on the Afghan border, intelligence officials and residents said yesterday.

Bodies of two of the victims were strung up from a bridge near the town of Mir Ali, while the bullet-riddled body of the third man was found near the region's main town, Miranshah.

In Swat, about 34 militants and two soldiers were killed in clashes on Saturday, military officials said. There was no independent verification of the casualty estimate.