Bomb explosion in Pakistan: 12 killed

Thursday in a market in Pakistan's troubled tribal region near the Afghan border, officials said. The blast hit a hotel and shops in a market in Jandola town in the South Waziristan region. "It was a bomb," Sajid Salim, an official of the local administration, told Reuters. Intelligence officials said the blast killed at least 12 people, but a resident said many more people could have died in the explosion that happened at 8.00 a.m. (0300 GMT), and came amid a spate of violence in the lawless region.

South Waziristan is part of Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal belt that stretches through rugged mountains and deserts along he border with Afghanistan.

Many al Qaeda members fled to the region from Afghanistan after U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban in late 2001, and were given shelter by militant sympathisers from conservative Pashtun tribes that inhabit both sides of the border.

Also on Thursday, the beheaded bodies of two members of a paramilitary force were found near, Wana, the main town in South Waziristan, said a member of the force, the South Waziristan Scouts. The two men went missing on Tuesday when they and two colleagues went into Wana town in civilian clothes. The whereabouts of the other two men were not known, said the member of the force, who declined to be identified.

In neighbouring North Waziristan, violence erupted on Tuesday when Islamic militants clashed with a bandit gang and 15 people were killed.

The militants strung up the bodies of five of the dead bandits and displayed the head of one on a pole.

At the weekend, authorities said an al Qaeda commander, Abu Hamza Rabia, and four others were killed when bomb-making material stored at their hideout in North Waziristan detonated accidentally last week.

Villagers in the area said the blast was caused by a missile fired from an unidentified aircraft, possibly a U.S. drone. I.L.

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