3 die in militant attack on Pakistani town

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Khar (Pakistan), Sep 22: Pro-Taliban militants fired rockets and mortar bombs into a northwestern Pakistani town near the Afghan border today, killing a soldier and two women, police said.

The attack on the town of Khar, in the Bajaur tribal region, was the latest incident in a surge of violence since July when a pact with militants broke down and commandos stormed a radical mosque in the capital, Islamabad.

The rockets and mortar bombs hit various parts of the town and its outskirts, including a paramilitary post. Two paramilitary soldiers and six civilians, including two children, were wounded.

''Firing began after midnight and continued for more than two hours in Khar and its Mamoon district,'' said a town police official who declined to be identified.

Bajaur is one of several Pakistani regions on the Afghan border where US security officials say al Qaeda and Taliban militants are able to take refuge and plot attacks.

In March, ethnic Pashtun tribal leaders in Bajaur assured the government they would not shelter foreign fighters but intermittent attacks on security forces have continued.

In a Web audio tape issued on Thursday, a speaker purported to be al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden vowed to retaliate against Pakistan's ''infidel'' president, Pervez Musharraf, his government and army for the July assault on Islamabad's Red Mosque.

Suicide attacks and abductions of members of the security forces have surged since the assault and the collapse of a 10-month peace pact in the North Waziristan region, to the southwest of Bajaur, also on the Afghan border.

The violence has raised fresh doubts in the minds of many in Pakistan about Musharraf's deeply unpopular support for the US-led war on terrorism, and comes as Musharraf is preparing for an October 6 presidential election.

In a separate incident today, a suicide bomber rammed his car into a military convoy 10 km (6 miles) south of the northwestern town of Tank, killing himself and wounding two security personnel, an intelligence official said.

In the southern city of Karachi, police found two suicide jackets packed with a total of about 22 kg (48 lb) of explosives and detonators abandoned near a police station.


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