June 2, 2006

Four Pakistani soldiers killed in suicide blast

BANNU, Pakistan (Reuters) - A suicide car bomber attacked a
Pakistani army convoy near the North Waziristan region on the
Afghan border on Friday, killing four soldiers, security
officials said.

Pakistani forces have been battling Taliban- and al
Qaeda-linked Islamist militants in Waziristan in recent years
and hundreds of soldiers and militants have been killed.

Eight soldiers were wounded in the attack on a road between
the western town of Bannu and North Waziristan, said the
intelligence official, who declined to be identified.

The attacker rammed his vehicle into two army trucks that
had broken down on the side of the road, the official said.

Military spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan confirmed
the four deaths. He said seven soldiers were wounded.

"The attackers inside the car, probably one or two, we are
not very sure whether it was one or two, have also died,"
Sultan said.

Many al Qaeda and Taliban members fled to the Pakistani
side of the lawless Afghan border after U.S. and Afghan
opposition forces ousted the Taliban regime in late 2001.

The Islamists had refused to hand over Osama bin Laden,
architect of the September 11 attacks.

Pakistan has vowed to clear foreign militants from its side
of the border and subdue their Pakistani allies.

Afghanistan says the militants launch cross-border attacks
against its troops and foreign forces from the Pakistani side
of the porous frontier.

In a separate incident, police in the southwestern province
of Baluchistan said they had arrested a prominent militant
suspected of involvement in a string of sectarian attacks.

The suspect, Habibullah Zehri, was a member of the
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, one of the most feared militant groups
blamed for attacks on Shi'ite Muslims in Pakistan, police said.

"He was involved in the planning and execution of almost
all sectarian killings in Baluchistan," senior provincial
police officer Chaudhary Mohammad Yaqub told a news conference
late on Thursday.

The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which the government outlawed in
August 2001, has links to the Taliban and al Qaeda.

It has been implicated in several attacks on Western
targets since Pakistan joined the U.S.-led war on terrorism
following the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

(Additional reporting by Arshad Sharif in ISLAMABAD and
Saleem Shahid in QUETTA)