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Schoolchildren killed in Pakistan suicide attack

/ Source: NBC News and news services

A suicide bomber struck a school van, then rammed his car into a police station in northwest Pakistan on Monday killing at least 17 people, including children, police said.

Local TV footage showed emergency workers using heavy machinery to move the rubble of the mostly destroyed police station, in the strategically vital town of Lakki Marwat in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

Books and a schoolbag could be seen in the wreckage and the twisted frames of a motorcycle and a car sat nearby. The blast also partly destroyed a neighborhood shop and a mosque.

There were conflicting reports of the death toll, with The Associated Press and NBC News reporting 17 dead, and Reuters saying at least 19 were killed.

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province's information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain told Reuters by telephone that among the 19 he reported dead were nine policemen and two children.  He added that the attack wounded 34 people, including 20 policemen.

The AP reported that the incident killed nine police officers, four adult civilians, four children going to school and wounded about 40 people.  Police official Liaquat Ali told the AP that 45 police were in the building when the bomber struck.

Lakki Marwat sits on the main road and rail link between Punjab Province, Pakistan's largest and most prosperous, and the lawless North and South Waziristan tribal regions, known as major sanctuaries for militants loyal to al-Qaida and the Taliban.

A Pakistani army offensive pushed many militants out of South Waziristan in October. The militants still control much of North Waziristan, where U.S. drone aircraft have been conducting a campaign of targeted killings.

A suicide bombing several months ago killed the police chief of Lakki Marwat district, and militants have carried out a string of attacks in the area since then.  

Attacks in wake of deadly floods
Monday's incident is the latest in a wave of attacks by al-Qaida-and Taliban-linked militants that ended a relative lull in militant violence, and added to pressure on a government struggling to cope with the crisis that has displaced millions and caused widespread destruction.

The deadliest attacks targeted minority Shiite Muslims. A suicide bombing killed at least 43 Shiites at a procession in the southwestern city of Quetta on Friday. Two days earlier, a triple suicide attack killed 35 people at a Shiite ceremony in the eastern city of Lahore.

The Pakistani Taliban, which the U.S. government officially labeled a foreign terrorist organizations last week, claimed responsibility for the bombings. The group's commander, Qari Hussain Mehsud, threatened Friday that his group would wage imminent attacks in the U.S. and Europe.

On the same day, Pakistani intelligence officials said two suspected U.S. missile strikes had killed at least seven people in North Waziristan, which is largely controlled by the Haqqani network, one of the main groups battling Americans in neighboring Afghanistan.

Aside from its battles against homegrown militants, Pakistan is under U.S. pressure to tackle Afghan Taliban fighters who cross the border from Pakistan's tribal areas to attack U.S.-led NATO troops.