Image: Car bomb aftermath
Mohammad Iqbal  /  AP
Pakistani security officials examine a police vehicle at the site of car bombing in Badaber near Peshawar, Pakistan, on Saturday.
updated 3/7/2009 12:19:01 PM ET 2009-03-07T17:19:01

Three separate bombings killed 15 people in northwestern Pakistan on Saturday, while authorities investigated reports that a pilotless U.S. drone crashed elsewhere in the militant-plagued region bordering Afghanistan.

The bombings, coming days after gunmen attacked Sri Lanka's visiting cricket team, were a fresh reminder of the militant threat in Pakistan, where Western leaders worry that a growing political feud could distract the government from tackling the extremists head on.

Al-Qaida and Taliban fighters are believed to use pockets of Pakistan's northwest as bases to plan attacks on U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. The U.S. has used drones to fire missile strikes against militants in the area, prompting protests from Pakistani officials who say the attacks fuel anti-American sentiment.

Saturday's reports of a drone crash came from Angoor Ada village in South Waziristan, a tribal region where the main Pakistani Taliban leader, Baitullah Mehsud, is based.

Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said authorities were investigating the reports. Two intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, said their informants and agents had yet to locate wreckage.

The U.S. rarely discusses the missile operations, and the drones are believed to be CIA-operated. Col. Greg Julian, the top U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan, declined to comment on reports of the crash.

Body in car used to lure police
Militants have staged numerous attacks against Pakistani security forces in recent years, but one Saturday — a car bombing — was unusual in that a body was used to lure police, officials said.

Local police chief Rahim Shah said police went to the Badaber area after an unknown caller told them of a body in a parked car. Residents and police had recently evicted militants from the area, prompting threats of retaliation.

"They found the white car. They also saw a body inside, but when they were pulling it out, the car bomb went off," Shah said. Seven police and a bystander were killed.

Meanwhile, a roadside bomb killed three civilians and wounded four troops Saturday in the town of Darra Adam Khel.

In the Khyber tribal region, a suicide bomber killed four people and wounded five at a mosque that served as a headquarters for the militant group Ansarul Islam, government official Sadiq Khan said. Ansarul Islam is the rival of another extremist group, Lashkar-e-Islam, Khan said.

Pakistan has staged military offensives in parts of its northwest, recently declaring it had defeated insurgents in the Bajur tribal region, but is also pursuing peace talks with militants in the region's Swat Valley, where it has promised to impose Islamic law.

Western leaders worry that Swat could turn into a militant haven, but Pakistan has persisted with the talks. On Saturday a top regional official said authorities decided to release 12 Taliban militants.

The 12 had been arrested "on charges of extremism," Syed Mohammad Javed said. "We are now setting them free."

Cricket attack similar to Mumbai assault?
In violence elsewhere in Pakistan, heavily armed gunmen attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team in the eastern city of Lahore last Tuesday, killing six police and a driver and wounding several players before fleeing unscathed.

The assault bore some resemblance to November's terrorist rampage in the Indian financial capital of Mumbai. The Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba has been blamed for that attack, in which 164 people were killed.

The group's chief spokesman, Abdullah Ghaznavi, in a call Saturday to The Associated Press denied it was involved in the attack on the Sri Lankans. The group also denies involvement in the Mumbai attacks.

The Sri Lankans were attacked in Punjab province, the stronghold of Pakistani opposition leader Nawaz Sharif.

The federal government recently dismissed the provincial government, led by Sharif's brother, after a court disqualified the Sharifs from elected office. Their party plans to participate in a massive march on the capital in the coming week organized by lawyers calling for an independent judiciary.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Friday it was "vital" for Pakistani politicians to stop feuding and "unite against the mortal threat that Pakistan faces, which is a threat from its internal enemies."

Sharif showed no sign of backing down Saturday, encouraging Pakistanis to join the march and warning President Asif Ali Zardari he would lose support if he does not restore the deposed chief justice and reduce some presidential powers.

"Zardari, you will have to pay a heavy price," Sharif warned.

In response, federal Information Minister Sherry Rehman, a ruling party member, said Pakistani politicians should think about the "larger interest," "see the dangers this country is facing, and do not engulf it with flames of instability."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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