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Saturday, December 25, 2010

40 dead in Khar suicide bombing

KHAR: At least 40 people were killed on Saturday in a suicide bombing at a World Food Programme ration distribution point in Bajaur, the tribal area bordering Afghanistan, officials said.

The blast took place at a food distribution point in Khar, the main town of Bajaur tribal district.

"At least 40 people were killed and more than 70 wounded in suicide bombing," tribal administration official Sohail Khan told AFP.

A suspected suicide bomber attacked the gathering of people receiving aid for people displaced by army operation in the region, government official in the Bajaur region said.

Security forces arrived at the scene and cordoned off the area.

Doctor Mohammad Hafeez, head of the local state-run hospital, confirmed the death toll and said there were several women and children among the casualties.

Officials and witnesses say the death toll could be much higher.

Bajaur was once a stronghold of Taliban militants who have carried out several bombing and suicide attacks.

Pakistan's military first launched operations in Bajaur in August 2008 and have repeatedly claimed to have eliminated the militant threat.

Around 4,000 people have died in suicide and bomb attacks across Pakistan since government forces raided an extremist mosque in Islamabad in 2007. The attacks have been blamed on networks linked to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

US officials are putting pressure on Pakistan to launch a major ground offensive in the tribal region of North Waziristan, considered a fortress for Taliban groups fighting US-led troops in Afghanistan.

Pakistan vehemently denies accusations that it is not doing enough to eradicate the Taliban in the northwest, saying 2,421 troops have been killed in fighting Islamist militants from 2002 until April this year.

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