Taliban ramps up attacks in Pakistan

Taliban ramps up attacks in Pakistan

PESHAWAR - Reuters
Taliban ramps up attacks in Pakistan

Security men gather at the site of a suicide bombing in Quetta. A suicide car rammed into a bus carrying Shiite Muslim pilgrims in southwest Pakistan. AP photo

Pakistani militants, who have escalated attacks in recent weeks, killed at least 41 people in two separate incidents, officials said yesterday, challenging assertions that military offensives have broken the back of militant groups.

In the north, 21 men working for a government-backed paramilitary force were executed overnight after they were kidnapped last week, a provincial official said. Twenty Shiite pilgrims died and 24 were wounded, meanwhile, when a car bomb targeted their bus convoy as it headed toward the Iranian border in the southwest, a doctor said. Human Rights Watch has noted more than 320 Shiites killed this year in Pakistan and said attacks were on the rise.

It said the government’s failure to catch or prosecute attackers suggested it was “indifferent” to the killings. Pakistan denies allegations that it supports militant groups like the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network. Afghan officials say Pakistan seems more genuine than ever about promoting peace in Afghanistan.

Witnesses said a blast targeted their three buses as they were overtaking a car about 60 kilometers west of Quetta, capital of sparsely populated Baluchistan province. In the attack in the northwest, officials said they had found the bodies of 21 men kidnapped from their checkpoints outside the provincial capital of Peshawar on Dec. 27. The men were executed one by one.

“They were tied up and blindfolded,” Naveed Anwar, a senior administration official, said by telephone. “They were lined up and shot in the head,” said Habibullah Arif, another local official, also by telephone. Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks.