Bomb Kills 14 Pakistani Soldiers in Tribal Area

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PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- A powerful roadside bomb in the militant hub of North Waziristan killed at least 14 Pakistani soldiers and wounded at least 25 on Sunday, a senior military official and local tribesmen said.

The bombing's toll was one of the largest suffered by the Pakistani military during recent operations in the tribal areas, and it followed a week of militant attacks in other cities that left more than 130 people dead.

The explosion, which is believed to have been set off by remote control, ripped through a military convoy about 20 miles south of Miram Shah, the main town in North Waziristan, as the soldiers drove toward the neighboring Bannu district.

A local tribesman, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said one truck had been "completely destroyed" in the blast, and a security official in Miram Shah said three vehicles had been damaged. The soldiers who were wounded were evacuated to a military hospital in Peshawar, and several were reported to be in serious condition.

There was no claim of responsibility, but suspicion fell on the Pakistani Taliban, who have carried out previous attacks on army convoys in the area, and sometimes admit to attacks they carry out.

Still, the bombing occurred less than a day after the Pakistani Taliban leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, directed his fighters to restrain from attacking the military, suggesting that the militants are not operating under a unified commanded.

In leaflets distributed in Miram Shah and Mir Ali on Saturday night, Mr. Mehsud told his followers to abide by the terms of a troubled September 2006 peace agreement with the government, which applies only to North Waziristan.

Instead, he said, the various Taliban factions should unite behind the leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Muhammad Omar, in their fight against "crusaders and heretics" in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"We support each other, and we protect each other," he said.

There have been tensions inside the Pakistani Taliban between Mr. Mehsud and his deputy, Wali ur-Rehman, over the past year. Both men recently appeared in a joint video to dispel speculation about a possible split in the group.

The bombing on Sunday was probably a reflection of the poor discipline inside the Taliban ranks. Another explanation, analysts said, was that it stemmed from a clash with Hafiz Gul Bahadur, a prominent militant commander from North Waziristan who is closely allied with the Afghan warlord Sirajuddin Haqqani.

Mr. Mehsud is wanted by American forces for his role in an attack on a Central Intelligence Agency base in Afghanistan in 2009, and he has survived at least one drone attack in Waziristan. Another militant leader in the area, Mullah Nazir, was killed this month in an American missile strike.

The drone campaign is controversial because it has caused civilian casualties, but it also appears to be affecting the militants. In his leaflet, Mr. Mehsud called on local and foreign fighters to unite because "the enemy is trying to divide and rule us."

After Sunday's bombing, the military responded by shelling the nearby village of Damdel, tribesmen said. There were no reports of casualties by Sunday evening.

The violence added to the appalling toll of militant violence in Pakistan in the past week. On Thursday two bombs killed 96 people in an ethnic Hazara neighborhood in the southwestern city of Quetta.

The grieving Hazaras -- who are Shiites, a minority in Pakistan -- have refused to bury the victims of the attacks until the military takes over security in Quetta, which has been hit by dozens of sectarian attacks in recent years.

In response to the furor, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf visited Quetta on Sunday to meet the victims' families.

Several dozen Pakistanis have been killed in other attacks over the past week. They include a major bombing in the northwestern Swat Valley, political shootings in Karachi and an attack by ethnic Baluch nationalists in Quetta.

Ismail Khan reported from Peshawar, and Declan Walsh from Karachi, Pakistan. Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud contributed reporting from Islamabad, Pakistan.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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