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Rocket attack kills 8 in Pakistan

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  • NEW: At least eight killed, nearly 40 wounded in Bannu in militant rockets attack
  • Bannu has been a hotbed of support for al Qaeda-linked militants
  • Militants have launched attacks to avenge the storming of an Islamabad mosque
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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (Reuters) -- Islamist militants fired rockets into a northwestern Pakistani town on Wednesday, killing at least eight people and wounding nearly 40, police said, amid mounting violence along the Afghanistan frontier.


A Pakistani army soldier patrols on a mountain at Sholam Post in southern Waziristan.

City police chief Daar Ali Khattak said four rockets hit Bannu, gateway to the North Waziristan tribal region bordering Afghanistan, which has been a hotbed of support for al Qaeda-linked militants.

"They hit civilian areas. Eight people, including a woman, have been killed," Khattak told Reuters.

He said 31 civilians and seven policemen were wounded.

The attack came a day after a Pakistani Taliban leader blew himself up to avoid arrest by government forces near the Afghanistan border, officials said.

Abdullah Mehsud, 31, who spent more than 2 years in the Guantanamo Bay prison camp before his release a year ago, was second-in-command of a Pakistani Taliban group headed by Baitullah Mehsud.

Baitullah Mehsud's followers have kept up the fight against U.S., NATO and Afghan forces deep inside Afghanistan.

The elimination of Abdullah Mehsud comes hard on the heels of a series of clashes between security forces and militants in North Waziristan this month after a 10-month-old peace deal was scrapped, and security forces stormed a radical mosque in Islamabad.

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The army says it has killed at least 54 militants since Saturday evening, the same day U.S. President George W. Bush said he was "troubled" by intelligence reports suggesting al Qaeda was becoming entrenched in Pakistani tribal areas.

Bush said Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf had realized the peace pact struck with militants in North Waziristan had failed and was taking action.

The porous Pakistani border with Afghanistan snakes 2,500 km (1,500 miles) through rocky mountains and across deserts, and is considered a front line in the U.S.-led war on terrorism.

Washington has accused Islamabad of not doing enough to stop Taliban fighters from crossing the border into Afghanistan. Pakistan rejects this, saying it is doing all it can but needs help from the West to monitor the borders and relocate refugees back inside Afghanistan.

Britain's Foreign Secretary David Miliband was due to arrive in Islamabad on Wednesday from Kabul on his first trip abroad since Gordon Brown succeeded Tony Blair as prime minister.

In one of his final speeches last month, Blair warned Afghanistan risked being overwhelmed by the same anti-Western violence that has torn up Iraq.

"Afghanistan embodies some of the biggest challenges for foreign policy," Miliband said on Tuesday in Kabul. "The challenges and problems are manifold." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Copyright 2007 Reuters. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

All About David MilibandAl QaedaGordon BrownThe TalibanAfghanistan WarPervez MusharrafAfghanistanPakistan

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