Car bomb kills at least three in NW Pakistan

Fri Apr 25, 2008 8:19am EDT

(Updates with Taliban's claim, changes dateline, adds byline)

Faris Ali

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, April 25 (Reuters) - Pro-Taliban militants exploded a car bomb outside a police station in northwestern Pakistan on Friday, killing at least three people, police and a militant spokesman said.

"The car was parked outside the police station. It was packed with explosives and blew up, damaging the station and several nearby shops in the bazaar," senior officer Tahir Khan in the town of Mardan, where the attack took place, told Reuters.

He said a police officer was among the dead and up to 25 people were wounded.

A spokesman for a pro-Taliban movement led by the top militant commander Baitullah Mehsud accepted the responsibility for the attack.

Mehsud, a militant leader accused by the previous government of organising the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in December, earlier this week ordered his followers to stop attacks in Pakistan.

"This attack was carried out by our mujahideen to revenge the earlier killing of one of our commanders by police in Mardan," Maulvi Omar, the spokesman for the Mehsud-led Tehrik-e-Taliban (Movement of Taliban), told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.

"We are still observing ceasefire but we have made it clear that if we were hit we will respond to that."

The blast broke a lull in Islamist militant attacks on security forces that had held since a new government came to power at the end of March.

The new government, made up of coalition partners opposed to President Pervez Musharraf, has pledged to try to use negotiations to halt the violence that has claimed well over a 1,000 lives since mid-2007.

Officials say the government is close to clinching a peace deal with Mehsud's tribe in South Waziristan -- a sanctuary for al Qaeda and Taliban militants on the Afghan border, in the hope of ending militant violence in the area.

Mehsud is regarded as having strong links to al Qaeda fighters hiding on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

However, Mehsud has denied he was involved in Bhutto's murder and leaders of the slain prime minister's party, which heads the new coalition, are also doubtful over his involvement and want the United Nations to investigate the killing. (Additional reporting by Zeeshan Haider; Writing by Simon Cameron-Moore; Editing by Alex Richardson) (For a Reuters blog on Pakistan please see:

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