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11 die as bomb rips apart Web cafe and bus in Pakistan

A CAR bomb destroyed an Internet cafe and tore through a bus carrying handicapped children in northwestern Pakistan yesterday, killing at least 11 people and wounding many more, police said.

Elsewhere in the troubled region, an apparent United States missile strike destroyed a Taliban training camp, killing 25 militants, while Pakistani troops killed dozens of Taliban in their bid to re-conquer the Swat Valley, officials said.

Violence is engulfing Pakistani territory along the Afghan border as American and allied forces crank up the pressure on al-Qaida and Taliban militants entrenched in the forbidding and barely governed mountains and valleys.

The car bomb devastated a busy street in Peshawar yesterday afternoon.

Television images showed several vehicles burning fiercely and a stricken white-and-green bus that had been dropping off handicapped children at their homes around the city.

The eight students still on board were injured, one seriously, medics and police said. Four other children and seven adults were killed, and dozens more were injured, they said.

Safwat Ghayur, a senior police official, said one of a string of shops wrecked by the blast was an Internet cafe - a favorite target for violent Islamist extremists in Pakistan who consider the Web a source of moral corruption.

Ghayur said the cafe had received several threats and been recently attacked by gunmen.

He said police were holding suspects in the shooting, but refused to elaborate.

It was unclear if any of the victims had been in the cafe or if it was the intended target. No group claimed responsibility.

Militants have threatened more attacks in Pakistan in retaliation for dozens of American missile attacks on their strongholds in Pakistan's tribal areas.

In the latest strike, Pakistani officials said several missiles hit a religious school and a nearby vehicle yesterday morning in Mir Ali, a town in the north Waziristan tribal region.

Two intelligence officials, citing reports from agents in the field, said at least 25 people were killed, including two foreign militants, and dozens more were wounded.

The identity of the victims was not immediately clear, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

However, they said the school was being used as a training camp by Gul Bahadur, a prominent Taliban commander believed to be involved in fighting US troops in Afghanistan.

The United States, alarmed by deteriorating security in Afghanistan, began stepping up drone attacks on Taliban and al-Qaida militants in Pakistan last year.

There has been no let-up since US President Barack Obama's administration took office in January, despite objections from Pakistan.

Yesterday's missile strike was the third such attack this month.

The US has carried out about 40 drone air strikes since the beginning of last year, killing more than 330 people, according to a tally of reports from Pakistani security officials, district government officials and residents.

Pakistan says the drones violate its sovereignty and undermine efforts to deal with militancy because they inflame public anger and bolster militant support.

The Pakistani military's battle with the Taliban militants has forced more than 900,000 people from their homes in the Swat Valley and the United Nations has warned of a humanitarian tragedy unless Pakistan gets massive help.


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