Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Worshippers killed in bomb attacks

Angry demonstrators in Pakistan set fire to roadside shops in a street protest against the recent killings in Karachi (AP)

Bomb attacks in north-western Pakistan have killed nine people, including three worshippers at a mosque and a group of soldiers travelling through an area the army pounded in a months-long offensive earlier this year.

The attacks showed the fragility of the military's gains in its offensives against al Qaida and Taliban insurgents along the border with Afghanistan. The US is hoping to bolster Pakistan's fight against extremists with a surge in military funding expected to be announced later on Friday.

In the first attack, a roadside bomb tore through a vehicle carrying paramilitary soldiers in the Orakzai tribal region, where the army recently declared victory over the Taliban.

The blast killed six soldiers, including a lieutenant colonel, and wounded three others, security officials said.

Hours later, a bomb hit a mosque on the outskirts of Peshawar, the capital of the north-western province. Besides the three killed, 22 people were injured, said senior police officer Liaquat Ali.

It was unclear whether the mosque was Sunni or Shiite affiliated. Pakistan is majority Sunni, and there have long been tensions between the two Muslim sects. The blast occurred during Friday prayers, which are typically the most attended prayer sessions of the week.

The US has praised Pakistan's operations against militant groups, largely because many of the insurgent movements are believed to also be involved in attacking American and Nato troops across the border in Afghanistan.

The Obama administration is setting out a new multi-year, multi-billion-dollar military aid package for Pakistan, which was set to be unveiled at the end of the latest round of high-level US-Pakistani strategic talks in Washington, US officials said.

The money will be provided over the next five years under the State Department's Foreign Military Financing programme that funds other countries' purchases of US-made arms, ammunition and accessories, the officials said.

The US administration hopes the announcement will reassure Pakistan of the long-term US commitment to its military needs and help it bolster its efforts to go after Taliban and al Qaida affiliates on its territory.

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