Militant Attacks on Pakistani Military Take Heavy Toll

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Militants targeted security forces in two attacks in northwestern Pakistan on Sunday that left at least 20 people dead, including 16 civilians, and underscored the array of challenges facing Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's new government.

Mr. Sharif hosted Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain in Islamabad on Sunday in the first major visit by a Western leader since the Pakistani elections in May. But even as the two focused on helping Pakistan's economy, pledging to expand economic cooperation and trade, violence again dominated the headlines.

The first attack was Sunday afternoon on the southern edges of Peshawar, the provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkwa Province, when a car bomb was detonated as a convoy of the Frontier Corps militia was passing by on the Indus Highway -- the area's main road -- in the Badaber neighborhood. The explosive-laden vehicle was parked near a police station and in a market area that is always crowded, officials said.

Though the Frontier Corps convoy appeared to be the target, all 16 people killed were civilians, according to the deputy commissioner for Peshawar, Javed Marwat. The people wounded, including three members of the Frontier Corps, were taken to hospitals in Peshawar. Several cars and shops were damaged.

The second attack took place in North Waziristan, the semiautonomous tribal region where militants of all stripes -- local and foreign -- have taken refuge. A military convoy there was struck by a roadside explosive, killing four soldiers and wounding at least 19 people, officials said.

The Pakistani military has balked at American pressure to start a military operation in North Waziristan, and army troops deployed in some areas there mostly stay inside their bases and encampments.

But military convoys regularly move on what are called "road opening" days, when the authorities impose a curfew to help clear the roadways in an attempt to ensure safe passage. "Curfew was announced last night, so some militants might have planted the bomb and waited for the convoy to move," one Pakistani security official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "All they needed was to push a button, even if there was curfew."

There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attacks, and officials said that militants in the semiautonomous tribal regions straddling the border with Afghanistan were most likely involved.

In Islamabad, Mr. Sharif and Mr. Cameron said they would work together to curb militancy. Britain also said it would offer expertise and equipment to help counter the Taliban's bombs.

Both leaders also discussed the war in Afghanistan, and the coming Western military withdrawal. The shift has major implications for the Pakistani government, which is concerned about ensuring its influence in Kabul, and for the militants who work on both sides of the border.

"I have assured Prime Minister Cameron of our firm resolve to promote the shared objective of a peaceful and stable Afghanistan," Mr. Sharif said.

Salman Masood reported from Islamabad, and Ismail Khan from Peshawar.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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