updated 12/10/2004 1:09:34 PM ET 2004-12-10T18:09:34

A bomb strapped to a bicycle exploded Friday next to an army truck parked at a crowded outdoor market in southwestern Pakistan, killing at least 10 people and wounding 27 others, police said.

The time bomb, weighing about 22-27 pounds, went off around 4 p.m. (6 a.m. ET) in Quetta, the main city in Baluchistan province, said police chief Rehmat Ullah.

No one immediately claimed responsibility. Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed blamed "enemies of Pakistan" who he said want to destabilize one of Washington's key allies in the war on terrorism. Mayor Rahim Kakar blamed "nationalists who don't want to see progress in Baluchistan."

The dead included one soldier and nine vendors and passers-by, Pervez Bhatti, a senior police official, told Pakistan's private Geo television. Several of the 27 injured people were in critical condition, he said.

At least four vehicles were destroyed by the blast, which blew out windows in nearby buildings and shredded the truck's canvas cover. The injured were frantically loaded into ambulances as investigators inspected the site.

Series of low-level bombings
Baluchistan has been hit by a series of low-level bombings in recent years, most of which have not caused any casualties and have been blamed on feuding tribesmen. However, there are signs that the region has become a base for Taliban and al-Qaida-linked militants.

On Dec. 1, police and intelligence agents exchanged fire with two suspected Chechen militants hiding in a home on the outskirts of Quetta. One militant died and the other was arrested. Eleven policemen were injured when the militants hurled grenades during the raid.

The city has also been rocked by sectarian violence.

In March, suspected Sunni militants fired at a Shiite procession in Quetta, killing 44 people and wounding 150. And in July 2003, attackers armed with machine guns and grenades stormed a Shiite mosque in the city, killing 50 people praying inside.

Other small-scale explosions have been blamed on nationalists who oppose setting up new army garrisons in the province and are trying to pressure authorities to get more returns from gas extracted from their region.

A little-known group, The Baluchistan National Army, has claimed responsibility for some of the previous attacks.

Since July, Pakistani authorities have rounded up dozens of terror suspects around the country, even as it wages a bloody military campaign against al-Qaida-linked militants along its lawless border with Afghanistan.

The counterterrorism efforts of President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who returned two days ago from a major overseas trip, have made him a key ally of the West against religious extremism, but drawn criticism at home from those uneasy over his strong ties with Washington.

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