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Pakistan Taliban: Bomb that killed 11 was revenge

Suicide bomb in Pakistan that kills 11 comes after U.S. missile strike

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan – A suicide bomber struck a restaurant in volatile northwest Pakistan on Thursday, killing at least 11 people, including pro-government fighters opposed to the country’s top Taliban commander, intelligence officials said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which also wounded several people.

Pockets of the northwest are strongholds for Taliban and al-Qaida militants. Pakistan has staged military offensives in the area, while the U.S. is suspected in dozens of missile strikes against militant targets there, including one that killed eight Wednesday. The Pakistani government also has encouraged tribal leaders to form militias to ward off the insurgents.

The attack Thursday morning, just outside the South Waziristan tribal region near the town of Tank, hit a roadside restaurant where some two dozen fighters loyal to pro-government leader Turkistan Bitani were eating, two intelligence officials told The Associated Press. Bitani was not present, they said.

Local resident Ibrahim Khan told The Associated Press by phone that he saw armed men trying to catch a young man in the vicinity of the restaurant.

“As the armed men grabbed that young man, he exploded a bomb,” said Khan, who added he saw 11 bodies.

South Waziristan is the stronghold of Baitullah Mehsud, the top leader of the Pakistani Taliban and a Bitani rival. On Wednesday, the U.S. State Department announced a $5 million bounty for Mehsud.

Mehsud spokesman Maulvi Umar called the suicide attack revenge for clashes last year.

“Turkistan Bitani’s fighters killed 35 of our people last year, and we killed his people today in a suicide attack,” Umar told The AP by phone.

Umar further condemned the U.S. bounty for his commander, saying: “God will protect Baitullah Mehsud.”

South Waziristan also was the site of Wednesday’s alleged U.S. missile strike, whose death toll included several foreigners, according to two other intelligence officials. The strike damaged two vehicles near Makeen, a town that borders Afghanistan.

The intelligence officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The missile strike came as President Barack Obama’s administration prepares to unveil a new strategy to quell Islamist insurgents threatening Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan.

U.S. officials say the missile strikes, stepped up over the past year, have killed a string of militant leaders and put al-Qaida on the defensive. However, the Pakistani government argues the tactic is counterproductive because it kills civilians and stokes anti-American feeling.

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