Suicide bomber kills 17 anti-militant tribesman in northwest Pakistan

KHAR, Pakistan (AP) -- A Taliban-linked group is claiming responsibility for a a suicide attack on a gathering of anti-militant tribesmen in northwest Pakistan.

Local officials say at least 17 of the tribesmen were killed and dozens more wounded. A government says the tribesmen were preparing to stage an assault on local militant hide-out when the suicide attacker struck. Several tribal elders who were instrumental in starting the militia are reported to be among the dead.

Officials initially said it appeared that a remote-controlled bomb went off, but the mutilated remains of an apparent attacker were later found.

Pakistan's military launched an offensive in the (Bajur) region three months ago, aimed at dismantling what it says has become a virtual Taliban mini-state. The military says airstrikes on militant hide-outs elsewhere in the region killed 19 suspected insurgents today.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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