Militants kill 18 in NW Pakistan convoy attack

Sat Jul 17, 2010 1:31pm BST

(Adds, Orakzai strikes, blasts in Lahore)

PARACHINAR, Pakistan, July 17 (Reuters) - Suspected militants in a Pakistani tribal region on the Afghan border ambushed a convoy of vehicles being escorted by security forces on Saturday, killing 18 people, including two women, witnesses said.

They opened fire on civilian vehicles in the convoy as it headed to the main northwestern city of Peshawar from Parachinar, the main town of the Pashtun-dominated Kurram region where the army has killed nearly 100 militants in operations in the past months.

"Militants attacked the last two vehicles in the convoy with automatic weapons near Char Khel village, killing 18 people," said Jamshed Tori, who was also wounded in the attack.

A tribal leader, Mussrat Bangash, confirmed the toll and said two women were among the dead. An official had earlier told Reuters five people had been killed. The civilian convoy was being escorted by local militiamen.

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The road linking Kurram with Peshawar often remains closed because of militants and Pakistan army operations, forcing people to take a circuitous route through Afghanistan to travel to the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province and its capital, Peshawar.

But that route is not safe. At least 11 people were killed in a similar attack last week when a passenger bus heading to Peshawar was attacked inside Afghanistan.

Civilian convoys are increasingly asking for security to protect them.

Elsewhere, jet fighters killed 18 militants in strikes on suspected hideouts in the Orakzai region on Saturday, security officials said. There was no independent verification and militants often dismiss official casualty estimates.

In a separate incident, two low-intensity blasts wounded four people in the eastern city of Lahore, the capital of Punjab province, police said. It was not immediately know what caused the explosions. (Reporting by Javed Hussain, Hasan Mahmood and Mubasher Bukhari; Writing by Augustine Anthony; Editing by Chris Allbritton) (E-mail: augustine.anthony@thomsonreuters.com; Reuters Messaging: augustine.anthony.reuters.com@reuters.net; Islamabad newsroom: +92 51 281 0017)) (If you have a query or comment about this story, send an e-mail to news.feedback.asia@thomsonreuters.com)

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