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October 17, 2009

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13 killed as suicide bombers attack Pakistani police station

THREE suicide attackers, including a woman, attacked a police station in northwestern Pakistan, killing 13 people yesterday while army airstrikes killed a dozen suspected militants in a Taliban stronghold ahead of an expected ground offensive.

The bombing in Peshawar city was the latest in a surge of terrorist attacks over the last 11 days that has killed more than 150 people and underscored the power of the Taliban, who have warned the army against launching any operation in the militants' base close to the Afghan border.

In Islamabad, the army chief met with the prime minister and other political leaders for talks that included plans for an offensive in South Waziristan, a military and an intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

The bombings targeted a heavily fortified police station in Peshawar, the main city in the northwest.

One attacker drove a car filled with explosives to the main gate of the police station, as a motorcycle carrying a man and a woman pulled up behind it, Peshawar police chief Liaquat Ali Khan said.

The woman jumped off and ran toward a housing complex where army officers live, while the man smashed the motorcycle into the car, which exploded into a huge fireball, he said. Police shot at the woman, who detonated explosives she was wearing.

The blast destroyed part of the police station and a mosque next to it.

The blast killed 13 people, including three police officers, two women and two children, said Gul Khan, a police official. Another 15 people were wounded.

Insurgents have sent attackers wearing military uniforms to bypass security to carry out some of their recent raids. The use of a female suicide bomber is rare here and could signal a new tactic by the extremists.

The United States hopes that a Pakistani army operation in South Waziristan, the Taliban's main stronghold, will help break much of the militant network that threatens both Pakistan and American troops across the border in Afghanistan.

The Pakistani army has given no time frame for the expected ground offensive in South Waziristan, but it has spent months softening targets there with airstrikes.

Jets struck six militant positions in the region yesterday, killing 12 militants and wounding eight, a government and an intelligence official said on condition of anonymity.


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