A car bomb apparently planted by Taliban insurgents blew up a police bus in northwestern Pakistan on Thursday, killing at least eight people, security officials said.
The bombing followed a recent pattern of Taliban attacks against government security installations in retaliation for a fierce Pakistani military campaign, including air strikes, in the tribal area of Bajaur. The continuing campaign has inflicted heavy casualties on the Islamic militants.
In the attack on Thursday, the car bomb exploded as the police bus was passing it on a crowded bridge in the town of Bannu, additional superintendent of police, Waqas Hassan, said in a telephone interview from Bannu.
The bus was traveling from the central police station in Bannu to the jail in Bannu to pick up prisoners when it was hit, Hassan said. The car bomb was operated by remote control and was of such force it pushed the bus into the Kurram River beneath the bridge, he said.
The attack was quite similar in method to the bombing of an Air Force bus in Peshawar last week that killed 14 people, many of which were air force personnel. The Taliban took immediate responsibility for that attack, which was also carried out by a remote controlled bomb.
Last week, two suicide bombers killed at least 80 people when they blew themselves up outside Pakistan’s biggest weapons factory complex.
In a sign that fighting between Taliban and Pakistani security and military forces is spreading in the tribal areas, fresh clashes were reported in South Waziristan after a period of relative calm.
In Tiarza in South Waziristan, about 50 Taliban attacked a military fort, and there were skirmishes at two security posts along the border with Afghanistan, local residents said. A statement by the Pakistani military said that 11 Taliban had died, and that as many as 20 had been wounded in the fighting around the fort.
Before the attacks, Maulvi Nazir, the leader of a Taliban group that competes with a larger alliance of Taliban, Tehrik-i-Taliban, asked the Pakistani military to vacate the fort and the posts, Zubair Wazir, a merchant who lives in Wana, , the capital of South Waziristan, said in a telephone interview.
In another attack in South Waziristan, Taliban fighters fired rockets on the Pakistani military compound at Zari Noor, a heavily fortified area where a handful of U.S. soldiers work alongside Pakistanis to target the Taliban, Wazir said.
The fort at Zari Noor has served as the main base of the Pakistani army since the military entered South Waziristan in 2004 in an early campaign to subdue the Taliban.
The atmosphere in Wana was “very tense” after a curfew was announced Wednesday, Wazir said.
Forces of the Pakistani army and the Taliban under Maulvi Nazir fought in the Wana bazaar on Wednesday, Wazir said.
The attacks by the Taliban have increased in the last few days as the Pakistani military has pressed on with a three-week long air campaign in Bajaur that has dislodged more than 200,000 people from their homes, according to the military.