PESHAWAR, Pakistan – A bomb hidden in a rickshaw exploded outside a bus terminal near a busy bazar in southwestern Pakistan on Friday, killing at least nine people and wounding 40, officials said.
The explosion came hours after a U.S. drone targeted a vehicle in northwestern Pakistan near the Afghan border, killing three suspected militants, two intelligence officials said.
The rickshaw bomb struck in the town of Jafarabad, about 180 miles east of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province. It also destroyed several shops, said senior government official Syed Zafar Bukhari.
Bukhari said the motive for the attack was not clear. He said the victims were taken to a hospital, where some of the injured were listed in critical condition.
"I can only confirm that the bomb killed nine people," Bukhari told The Associated Press by phone. "It would be premature to say who orchestrated the attack."
Although no group claimed responsibility, suspicion fell on Bluch nationalists who have waged a decades-long insurgency against the government in Baluchistan for greater autonomy and a larger share of the province's natural resources. The province is also home to many radical Islamist militants.
In the drone strike, a pair of missiles fired from the unmanned aircraft hit a vehicle in a bazar near the Datta Khel village of North Waziristan tribal region at about midnight Thursday, the two intelligence officials said.
The suspects were traveling from the border town of Shawal to Datta Khel, a stronghold of local Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur, the officials added, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. They said the nationalities and identities of the slain men were not immediately known. Pakistani government and army spokesmen could not be reached for comment.
Drone strikes often cause tension between Washington and Islamabad. They are extremely unpopular in this Islamic nation, where many people believe the drone attacks mostly kill civilians, an allegation disputed by U.S. officials.
The CIA drone strikes have killed scores of suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban men in Pakistan's tribal region over the past few years. The secret nature of the program makes it difficult to determine how many civilians are being killed.