KOHAT, Pakistan – A suicide bomber tried to force his vehicle into a Pakistani military camp in the northwest on Friday but was blown up when soldiers opened fire on him, a day after dozens of people were killed in violence across the region
Violence has intensified in Pakistan in recent weeks with the military battling militants in three different northwestern areas and militants responding with bomb attacks on security forces.
The deteriorating security comes as the main political parties are locked in dispute over the judiciary, and as the economy falters, dashing hopes for stability in the nuclear-armed country after Pervez Musharraf resigned as president last week.
The suicide bomber tried to ram his vehicle into a paramilitary force camp in the Darra Adam Kheil region, south of the main northwestern city of Peshawar.
“The vehicle could not enter the gate and exploded when security people fired on it,” said Siraj Ahmed, the region’s top administration official.
A military official said the bomber tried to ram an army truck carrying troops as it came out of the gate and 20 paramilitary soldiers were wounded. Two civilians driving by at the time were killed, a government official said.
The surge in militant violence has alarmed Pakistan’s Western allies, worried about the stability of their important ally whose support is vital in defeating al Qaeda and the Taliban campaign in neighboring Afghanistan.
The United States says al Qaeda and Taliban militants are based in sanctuaries in northwest Pakistan’s ethnic Pashtun tribal areas on the Afghan border where they orchestrate attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan and plot violence in the West.
Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other top U.S. officials met Pakistan’s army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, this week on a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Indian Ocean to discuss the militant havens.
Mullen later played down any expectation the day-long meeting aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln on Tuesday would lead quickly to progress against the militants.
“It’s just going to take some time,” Mullen told reporters at a Pentagon briefing. “Expectations for instantaneous results I think are probably a little bit too high.”
But he said: “I came away from the meeting very encouraged that the focus is where it needs to be.”
Mullen said he welcomed recent Pakistani military action in the violence-plagued tribal areas but both Pakistan and the United States needed to do more to shore up security.
Most of the recent fighting has been in the Bajaur and South Waziristan regions on the Afghan border and in the Swat Valley in North West Frontier Province where soldiers killed 23 militants on Thursday, a military official said.
The valley was a prime tourist destination until last year when Pakistani Taliban infiltrated from Afghan border enclaves to support a radical cleric trying to impose hardline rule.
Earlier on Thursday a car-bomb blew up a police bus in another part of the northwest, killing 11 people.
Musharraf’s support for the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism was deeply unpopular but the government has vowed to press ahead with the effort.