Fighting rocks northwest Pakistan

Pakistan's military says it has killed up to 16 armed men near the town of Hangu.

    Police are holding a man in connection with Thursday's double suicide bombing [AFP]

    Major-General Athar Abbas, Pakistan's chief military spokesman, confirmed the incident but did not provide further details.

    Pakistan's coalition government is struggling with an upsurge in violence near the Afghan border.

    Fighters fired rockets overnight at a police station in Bada Bahr, near the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing one policeman and wounding two others, police said.

    Bajaur crackdown

    In the adjoining region of Bajaur, one of Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal zones, military helicopters on Friday killed another five armed men, officials said.

    A military offensive in Bajaur in the past two weeks has left more than 500 people dead, most of them suspected Taliban fighters, officials say.

    Three men were killed when military aircraft destroyed their vehicles as they were driving outside Bajaur's main town of Khar, an unnamed security official told the AFP news agency.

    Two more men died when helicopters targeted a compound in Salarzai village, the official said.

    On Thursday, a double suicide bombing killed 64 people at a major arms factory in the town of Wah, about 30km from the capital Islamabad.

    A spokesman for Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, the umbrella group for the country's pro-Taliban movement, said that attack was a response to military operations in Swat and Bajaur.

    Suspect held

    Police said a young man, suspected to be a would-be suicide bomber, was caught trying to flee the scene of Thursday's blasts.

    Mohammed Saeed, a local police official, said that police had recovered an explosives-packed jacket that the suspect was believed to have left in a mosque's toilet close to the factory.

    "The army and police arrested a suspected bomber not far away from scene of the attack," Saeed said. "They also recovered a suicide jacket from a nearby mosque and seized explosives."

    The violence has heightened tensions in Pakistan, which is in turmoil after the resignation of Pervez Musharraf, the president.

    Leaders of the ruling coalition, which had threatened impeachment proceedings against Musharraf were meeting on Friday to discuss his successor.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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