tampabay.com

Pakistan courtroom bombing kills 16

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published February 18, 2007


QUETTA, Pakistan - A suicide bomber blew himself up Saturday in a courthouse in southwestern Pakistan, killing 15 others, including a judge, in the deadliest of a series of attacks that have struck the country in recent weeks.

There is suspicion in Pakistan that pro-Taliban militants are targeting sensitive sites to undermine the country's support of the United States, and an official in the region where Saturday's attack took place hinted at Afghan involvement.

Saturday's explosion wounded 24 people and left bloodied clothes and body parts scattered next to wrecked furniture and shattered glass in Quetta District Courts. It forced police - already on alert - to further tighten security nationwide.

"Afghans have been involved in previous such attacks here. I cannot rule out their involvement in today's attack, but we don't have any evidence to prove it," Jam Mohammed Yousaf, the top elected official in Baluchistan province, told reporters in Quetta.

Relations between the neighboring countries have soured over Afghan allegations that Pakistan is supporting Taliban militants who have escalated their campaign of violence in the neighboring country over the past year. Pakistan denies helping the militants but acknowledges that some operate from its soil.

Increasingly, it appears Pakistan itself has become a battleground. There have been about 10 bombings in the past month, mostly in the tribal northwest

Saturday's blast in Quetta was by far the deadliest. The suicide bomber "entered the courtroom on foot and he immediately exploded himself," Yousaf said.

The blast killed Judge Abdul Wahid, five lawyers and some of the relatives of prisoners who were on trial, Yousaf said. He could not give details about the prisoners' identities or the cases being heard.