Rocket attack kills eight in Pakistan

July 26, 2007 - 0:0

MIRANSHAH, Pakistan (AFP) -- Islamic militants fired a barrage of rockets into a city in northwest Pakistan, killing at least eight civilians and injuring 41 amid a wave of violence sweeping the country.

The attack was the latest in Pakistan since the army stormed a pro-Taleban mosque in the capital Islamabad earlier this month, and came a day after a top Taleban militant blew himself up. Four houses were destroyed in the rocket attack on Bannu, a town on the fringes of restive North Waziristan tribal zone, where the United States says Osama Bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network has set up safe havens. ""The dead included one woman and seven other civilians,"" local police officer Mohammad Ghulam told AFP, adding that seven policemen were among the injured. Police said the five rockets landed within 30 minutes soon after midnight, causing loud explosions that spread panic in the town. ""Police have sealed all entry and exit points and also tightened security in the town,"" Ghulam said. The attack came a day after top Pakistani militant commander Abdullah Mehsud blew himself up to avoid arrest when he was cornered by security forces in southwestern Pakistan. Mehsud, a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner, was believed to be linked to the wave of suicide and other militant attacks that has claimed more than 200 lives since the siege of the capital's Red Mosque began on July 3. Police said the Bannu attack could be a backlash to the killing of Mehsud. ""Rockets fired in middle of the night randomly show that militants are desperate to cause indiscriminate damage and to embarrass the government,"" senior local police officer Mahboob Khan told AFP. ""There were no definite targets but the aim was to inflict maximum casualties,"" he said. Violence has also surged along Pakistan's northwestern border with Afghanistan after pro-Taliban militants in North Waziristan scrapped a peace agreement with the government. Suspected militants blew up a security checkpost, a school and a government office early Wednesday in Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan, and fired a rocket at an army camp, local officials said. No casualties were reported in the attacks, which have become routine in the region since the collapse of the peace deal. Residents in the town said all government offices and banks were shut down for the second day running due to the security situation. The authorities have also imposed a ban on all types of traffic in the tribal district between 7pm and 7am, the official said, following reports that armed militants were moving around in tinted-glass pickup trucks. Pakistani authorities have been trying to revive the peace deal in North Waziristan, but US President George W. Bush last week criticised it and said that Musharraf had realised it was not working