PAKISTAN-VIOLENCE

OCTOBER 1 2007 08:11h

Suicide Bomber in NW Pakistan Kills 15

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A suicide bomber wearing a woman's burqa set off explosives in the northwestern Pakistani town of Bannu on Monday killing up to 15 people.

A male suicide bomber wearing a woman's burqa set off explosives in the northwestern Pakistani town of Bannu on Monday killing 15 people, including four policemen, security officials said.

The blast was the latest in a wave of attacks, most in the northwest of the country, blamed on Islamist militants based in tribal areas along the Afghan border.

Authorities initially said they were not sure if the bomber, who set off explosives near a bus stop as police approached, was a woman or a man wearing a woman's all-enveloping gown. But police later said it was a man.

"The bomber was a man wearing a burqa. He came out of a hospital and police followed him because he was not walking like a woman," said a senior police official in Bannu, a town in North West Frontier Province.

Among the dead were three women teachers waiting at the bus stop. Thirty-one people were wounded, police said. There was no claim of responsibility.

Hundreds of people have been killed in militant attacks in Pakistan since July, when a pact with militants in one border area collapsed and commandos stormed a radical mosque in the national capital, Islamabad.

The surge of violence comes as army chief and president Pervez Musharraf is preparing to try to win another term in an Oct. 6 presidential election.

Many Pakistanis disapprove of Musharraf's support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism, which they blame for stirring up militant violence in ethnic Pashtun areas bordering Afghanistan.