PAKISTAN

Deadly blasts hit air force base, restaurant

A bomb blast ripped through an air force base in the Pakistani town of Kamra, killing six civilians and two military personnel on Friday hours before a car bomb exploded outside a restaurant in the northwestern city of Peshawar, wounding 10.

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AFP - Bombers targeted an air force base and later an upmarket restaurant in Pakistan on Friday, unleashing fresh bloodshed in a 19-day wave of attacks that has left nearly 200 people dead.

As troops pressed a week-old offensive against the Taliban in the remote tribal belt, militants again brought the fight to the military's front door when a bomber blew himself up during morning rush hour in the town of Kamra, near the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC). Eight people were killed.

Several hours later, a car bomb exploded outside a restaurant in the main northwestern city of Peshawar, wounding 10 people.

District police chief Fakhar Sultan said the attack in Kamra killed six civilians and two Pakistan Air Force personnel.

The Air Force said 15 security staff were wounded and confirmed two of its personnel died when the bomber blew himself up at the checkpoint on the road outside the base, about 60 kilometres (38 miles) west of the capital Islamabad.

"We have found a mutilated face, as well as other body parts, including legs and arms of the bomber," said Sultan.

Officials said the explosion in Peshawar was a car bomb, detonated in the wealthy district of Hayatabad.

"There are 10 people wounded and the blast took place in a parking area of a restaurant in Hayatabad," police official Fazal-e-Amin told AFP at the scene.

Police said a vehicle outside the Evergreen complex, which is used as a wedding hall, restaurant and swimming pool, was completely destroyed.

"It was a severe blast but people were not there at the time so there are not so many casualties," police official Anwar Shah told AFP.

Aftab Durrani, the head of the Hayatabad Medical Complex, confirmed that 10 wounded people were admitted after the blast.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but a series of attacks blamed on Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked extremists has left at least 193 dead this month in the frontline state in the US-led battle with global extremism.

The military has been a major target. On Thursday, in Islamabad, gunmen killed a brigadier who had been working in a UN peace mission in Sudan. His driver was also killed.

On October 10 militants staged an audacious ambush claimed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban in Pakistan (TTP) movement on the army headquarters in Rawalpindi.

Pakistan has vowed to crush the network, unleashing a major ground and air offensive targeting TTP in their South Waziristan stronghold along the Afghan border, where Al-Qaeda is accused of plotting attacks on the West.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned the latest attacks and vowed that the government would not waver in its resolve to "root out terrorism" with nearly 30,000 troops fighting against the TTP in South Waziristan.

Tensions have soared in Pakistan, with civilians increasingly nervous of extremist bombings and millions of students kept at home this week as Pakistan shut all schools and colleges after a suicide attack Tuesday at a university.

The Waziristan offensive presents Pakistan with its toughest fight to date against Islamist radicals accused of plotting attacks on the West and blamed for attacks that have killed 2,280 people in Pakistan in two years.

Officials say more than 150 people, at least 137 militants and 18 soldiers, have been killed since the operation against an estimated 10,000 fighters began Saturday and more than 120,000 civilians have fled the war zone.

Backed by helicopter gunships and warplanes, troops have been locked in heavy fighting that underscores the difficulty of dislodging diehard Taliban from bastions such as Kotkai, the hometown of TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud.

Washington has encouraged the offensive but US lawmakers passed a giant Pentagon spending bill that sets tough new restrictions on military aid to Pakistan, where army commanders are already fuming over previous limits.

The bill says the Pentagon must certify that Islamabad is waging a "concerted" fight against Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and other fighters before it can receive the massive package of aid to battle extremists on its soil.

US lawmakers have increasingly called for closer tracking of US aid to Pakistan, amid growing concerns about US strategy in Afghanistan as US President Barack Obama weighs sending more troops to fight the eight-year war.
 

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