Blast in Pakistan's Khyber; U.S. official arrives

Mon Jun 30, 2008 7:20am EDT
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By Faris Ali

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - An explosion destroyed the home of a militant in Pakistan's Khyber region on Monday, killing seven people residents said, on the third day of an offensive against Islamists threatening the city of Peshawar.

A militant chief said he believed the blast was caused by a missile but a government official in the region said explosives stored at the house in the town of Bara went off accidentally.

"There was no rocket attack, it's not related to the ongoing operation. The blast was caused by explosives that were lying there," said the senior political official, who declined to be identified.

Security forces launched an offensive in Khyber, on the country's northwestern border with Afghanistan, on Saturday to push back Taliban militants who have been moving towards Peshawar, raising fears for the city's security.

Troops backed by armored vehicles and helicopters met virtually no resistance when they moved in and secured Bara, about 15 km (10 miles) southwest of Peshawar.

Troops destroyed several militant compounds as well as an FM radio station and an interrogation centre, officials said.

The offensive is the first major military action a new government has launched since it took power after February elections, and comes after growing alarm about the spread of militants in the northwest.

It also came as U.S. assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, Richard Boucher, arrived in Pakistan.   Continued...

<p>Pakistani tribesmen walk among the debris of a house after an explosion near Bara in the Khyber tribal region near the Afghan border June 30, 2008. T REUTERS/Ali Imam</p>