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U.S./World

Eighteen Pakistani officers killed

| Friday, Aug. 28, 2009

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A suicide bombing at the main border crossing for NATO convoys traveling between Pakistan and Afghanistan killed at least 18 Pakistani security officers Thursday, according to witnesses and officials.

The bomber blew himself up amid the government offices and barracks of the Torkham checkpoint in northern Pakistan as guards were preparing to break their fast with the evening meal during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Dozens of officers were injured, officials said.

The top political official in the area, Tariq Hayat, said the bomber was a young boy who had walked among the tribal police carrying water while they were preparing the meal. Hayat said he suspected that the Taliban had carried out the attack in retaliation for Pakistani military operations against the militant group in recent months.

Pakistani Taliban fighters are trying to regroup after the apparent death of their leader, Baitullah Mehsud, who officials and Taliban members said was killed this month in a U.S. missile strike in the South Waziristan tribal region where he operated.

Pakistani intelligence officials reported a similar attack yesterday afternoon in the same border district. Officials said three missiles were fired at a Taliban member's house, killing about eight people.

"Local Taliban volunteers were seen engaged in relief activities, pulling out bodies and the injured from the debris," said a tribesman from the area who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was afraid. "The house was completely destroyed in the drone attack."

The Torkham checkpoint is on a busy road through the Khyber Pass and is frequently used by U.S. military and NATO supply convoys traveling between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Previous attacks have targeted the convoys, but officials did not say whether any of the vehicles were hit in yesterday's bombing.

A political appointee in the Khyber district administration said by telephone that the bombing killed 18 tribal policemen and injured more than 10. A doctor at a nearby hospital put the death toll at 21.

Saeed Khan Afridi, who lives near the checkpoint, said the attack leveled a single-story building that tribal security forces were using for residential purposes.

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