Children among 11 killed by car bomb

A SUICIDE car bomber attacked a police checkpoint in north-west Pakistan yesterday, killing 11 people, including four children, in the latest in a wave of militant attacks that have claimed more than 300 lives in the past month.

The attack on the outskirts of Peshawar solidifies the city's ominous status as a primary target for militants trying to force the military to end an offensive against their associates launched last month in South Waziristan, where al-Qaeda and Taleban leaders are believed to be hiding.

Strikes in the past week alone have killed more than 50 people in the city, including ten at the regional office of Pakistan's top intelligence agency, which was targeted by a lorry bomb on Friday. The agency has been overseeing much of the country's anti-terrorism campaign.

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Taleban commander Qari Hussain Mehsud yesterday claimed responsibility for that attack and another on a police station the same day in a neighbouring district.

He vowed the violence would continue. "The suicide bombers were trained by me and I have a lot more volunteers to carry out more attacks," he said.

Security was tightened in and around Peshawar after those attacks. Police on checkpoints at all entry points to the city were checking every vehicle.

"Suddenly, a car exploded with a big bang," said police official Malik Jehangir, who was working at the checkpoint. "There was a long queue of vehicles. One of our officials wanted to search the car when it exploded."

Liaqat Ali Khan, the city's police chief, said 11 people were killed, including two police officials. Four children and a woman were among the dead, while another 25 people were wounded, he said.

The United States has urged Pakistan to persevere with its campaign against the Taleban, especially in South Waziristan, which militants use as a base to attack western troops across the border in Afghanistan.