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Market attack in NW Pakistan kills at least 8

PESHAWAR (Reuters) - A suicide bomber killed an anti-Taliban village mayor and seven other people in an attack on the outskirts of Pakistan’s volatile city of Peshawar on Sunday, officials said.

The bomber blew himself up as Abdul Malik, mayor of Matni village, was standing in a busy market. Matni is close to the lawless tribal lands where Islamist militants are active.

“So far, eight people have died, including Abdul Malik,” Sahibzada Anis, Peshawar’s top administration official, told Reuters.

Hospital officials said at least nine people were killed and 36 wounded, several of them seriously.

Islamist militants have unleashed a campaign of bomb and suicide attacks in Pakistan in recent weeks in retaliation for a major offensive launched by security forces in their main bastion, South Waziristan, on the Afghan border.

That assault in South Waziristan’s rugged landscape of barren mountains and hidden ravines, now a centre of global Islamist militancy, is being closely watched by the United States and other powers embroiled in Afghanistan.

To support their overall anti-militant drive, Pakistani authorities have encouraged Pashtun tribes to revive traditional militia to counter rising Islamist militancy.

‘DEADLY AGAINST TALIBAN’

Malik was head of a lashkar, or tribal militia, raised by the villagers against the militants.

“He was pro-government and was deadly against the Taliban,” Peshawar police chief Liaquat Ali Khan said.

Militants have killed numerous pro-government tribal elders over the past few years, and have stepped up attacks recently.

Last month, more than 100 people were killed in a car bombing in Peshawar in the deadliest attack in the country in two years.

More than 150 people were killed in attacks before the army began the assault in South Waziristan.

The army went on the offensive in the ethnic Pashtun region on Oct. 17 aiming to root out Pakistani Taliban militants behind a wave of violence in urban areas.

Soldiers have been advancing into the militant heartland from three directions and had entered their headquarters of Makeen on Friday.

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