RAWALPINDI, Pakistan – Two bombs targeting police and government workers killed up to eight people and wounded scores more Thursday — latest attacks to hit Pakistan as it battles Taliban insurgents near the border with Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, a prominent militant commander in the northwest reportedly agreed to halt attacks on security forces there, a move that could help the army in its efforts to eliminate the Taliban leadership in the region.
The deadliest bombing took place in Rawalpindi, which lies next to the capital and is home to the headquarters of Pakistan's military
A homicide bomber riding a motorcycle slammed into a bus carrying defense department employees, killing up to six people and injuring 25 more, senior police official Rana Shahid said. A senior intelligence official told The Associated Press that the bus was carrying employees of the Pakistani military's weapons-making department.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
An AP reporter saw pieces of a charred motorbike lying on the ground, as well as a damaged bus, car and van. Shattered glass and twisted metal littered the road.
Taxi driver Mohammed Ejaz said he saw a young man dressed with a black scarf around his neck revving his motorcycle on the side of the road. "Within moments he zigzagged his way to the bus, and then there was a huge explosion," Ejaz said.
The second attack took place near Peshawar, the main city in the northwest, where a roadside bomb killed two policemen and wounded five more, police official Ghayoor Afridi said.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for either blast, but a series of attacks in recent months have been carried out by Islamist militants with roots in the wild border regions near Afghanistan, where the army is currently fighting the insurgents.
Earlier Thursday, Maulvi Nazir, a powerful militant chieftain in the frontier region of South Waziristan, declared a cease-fire against security forces, government official Syed Abdul Ghafoor Shah said. The terms of the deal were not made public.
"This is a good sign for peace," Shah said, adding that tribal elders would be responsible for ensuring peace in are the area, which includes the region's main town of Wana.
Ameer Gulstan, one of the 120 tribal elders who met with Nazir, and intelligence officials also confirmed the meeting.
The announcement could mean the government was succeeding in efforts to isolate head of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, who is blamed for a string of deadly suicide attacks across the country that have killed around 100 people in the past month.
Nazir was once considered a "pro-government" Taliban commander in that he directed his attention to fighting in Afghanistan. He switched sides in February when he struck a deal with Mehsud and other militants to attack U.S. and Pakistani security forces to avenge missile attacks on Pakistan's tribal regions.