Militants bombed a Pakistan army convoy then raked it with gunfire, killing 17 soldiers and continuing a wave of violence that has seen 41 deaths in the past few days.
At least five suspected militants also died in clashes with security forces in North Waziristan, a Taliban and al Qaida stronghold on the Afghan border where a disputed peace deal has collapsed and Pakistani troops have moved in.
Today, a suicide car bomber attacked a policy academy in another frontier area in the north-west, killing up to six people, officials said.
Academy chief Attaullah Wazir said the blast in the town of Hangu, 45 miles south-west of Peshawar, killed two policemen. However, an official at Hangu’s hospital, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to speak to the media, said five policemen and one passer-by had died.
In southern Pakistan, assailants detonated a bomb and fired on a convoy carrying Chinese workers near the port city of Karachi, police said. At least 13 Pakistanis were killed and 30 others were injured, but none of the Chinese was hurt.
The dead included police guards and civilians in the area. The motive was unclear.
Pakistan stepped up security for the estimated 2,000 to 3,000 Chinese nationals in the country after Beijing protested against the killing of three Chinese men in the north-western city of Peshawar.
The three are among more than 240 people killed this month in suicide attacks, bombings and shootings blamed on Islamic extremists and in a bloody army siege of radicals in Islamabad’s Red Mosque.
President Gen. Pervez Musharraf urged moderate Pakistanis, many of whom are pressing him to stand down and restore civilian rule, to help him take on the extremists. Still his military-led government on Wednesday also challenged US claims that al-Qaida was regrouping near the Afghan frontier.
Adding to the tension, a suicide bomber killed 16 people on Tuesday at a rally for Pakistan’s suspended chief justice, whose legal battle with Musharraf has galvanised opposition to military rule. A verdict in the case is expected as early as tomorrow.
Critics accuse Musharraf of leading the country toward civil war and using the crisis to shore up US support for his eight-year-old military regime. There is growing concern that this year’s elections will be postponed.
However, Musharraf insisted yesterday that the vote would go ahead and dismissed speculation he would declare a state of emergency. He also claimed that al Qaida was on the run.