DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan (Reuters) - A bomb planted on a bicycle in the northwestern Pakistani town of Dera Ismail Khan killed 12 people on Tuesday, including three policemen, police said.
There has been a relative lull in militant violence in recent weeks since government forces stepped up offensives in the Orakzai and Khyber regions of the northwest after largely clearing Pakistani Taliban strongholds in other areas.
Dera Ismail Khan is in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which used to be known as North West Frontier. It has been targeted before by militants but is not an Islamist stronghold. Police at first said the bomb, which blew up as a police van was passing, was caused by a suicide car-bomber.
“Initially, it looked like a suicide attack but we figured out that the device was on a bicycle, which was apparently parked on the side of the road,” bomb disposal squad officer Inayatullah Khan told Reuters.
Twelve bodies and 10 wounded people were brought to the town’s main hospital, said a doctor, Qibla Khan. Among the dead were three policemen and two children, he said.
Television footage showed a twisted bicycle and a burned-out auto-rickshaw as policemen collecting evidence at the scene.
“A rickshaw nearby caught fire and a couple with two kids were burned to death. It was horrible,” a witness told Reuters.
Pakistan has been fighting al Qaeda-linked militants who want to impose Taliban-style rule in the nuclear-armed Muslim country. Thousands of people have been killed in militant violence since Pakistan joined the U.S.-led war on terror after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
Pakistani action against its homegrown militants is seen as vital to U.S. efforts to stabilize neighboring Afghanistan.
The United States also wants its ally Pakistan to go after Afghan Taliban factions based in remote enclaves on the Pakistani side of the border from where they launch cross-border attacks on Western forces in Afghanistan.
The United States has increased pressure on Pakistan to send troops into North Waziristan, an Afghan militant stronghold on the Afghan border, following a failed bombing in New York on May 1 claimed by the Pakistani Taliban, who also operate in the region.
Pakistan has said it will do so but on its own schedule and when adequate resources are available.
Analysts say Pakistan’s reluctance to take on the Afghan Taliban is mainly because it still considers them strategic assets who could be of use to influence events in Afghanistan.
Hundreds of al Qaeda and Taliban militants fled to Pakistan after U.S.-led forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001.
Additional reporting and writing by Kamran Haider; Editing by Chris Allbritton