18 die in North Waziristan blast

ISLAMABAD. January 13. KAZINFORM A suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden vehicle into a mosque in northwest Pakistan on Wednesday, killing 18 paramilitary soldiers and policemen, police said; Kazinform refers to Arab News.

The mosque, which was heavily damaged, is beside a police station on the outskirts of Bannu, a town bordering North Waziristan, a hub of Al-Qaeda and Taleban militants. Officials said people were trapped in the rubble. "We have received 18 dead bodies and 15 injured," said Mohammad Rahim, a doctor in Bannu's main hospital.

District police chief Mohammad Iftikhar said that most of those hurt were police officers and paramilitary personnel.

The attack was immediately claimed by Pakistani Taleban, who said it was to avenge US drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal belt, which borders Afghanistan.

"We claim responsibility for this attack. We will continue such attacks unless the drone attacks are stopped," Taleban spokesman Azam Tariq, speaking from an undisclosed location, said in a statement.

The bomb followed a missile strike by an unmanned aircraft on a militant compound in the North Waziristan region at dawn on Wednesday, which killed five militants, security officials said.

The United States does not officially confirm the controversial drone attacks, which take place with Islamabad's tacit approval and which US officials say has severely weakened Al-Qaeda's leadership; Kazinform cites Arab News.

See www.arabnews.com for full version

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