Officials in northwest Pakistan say a bomb planted on a bicycle exploded in the town of Dera Ismail Khan Tuesday, killing at least 12 people. The attack is the latest in a string of killings carried out by the Taliban militants against local security forces in the region. The attack comes as senior U.S. security officials prepare to visit Islamabad to press Pakistan to more aggressively confront the militants.
Dera Ismail Khan is a rugged town southwest of the city of Peshawar, the gateway city to Pakistan's lawless tribal area. Authorities say the bomb went off as a patrol vehicle passed through the town. Doctors at the town's main hospital said at least two children and three policemen were among those killed in the attack.
A police superintendent told reporters he believes one of the dead, a senior police officer, was the primary target. He said he thinks Iqbal Marwat's vehicle was the target because he has carried out many operations against terrorists in the region.
In the past year, Pakistan has been under intense pressure by the United States government to escalate its battle against Taliban-allied groups. U.S. officials have praised the military's efforts, but huge tracts of territory in the tribal areas along the Afghan border remain outside government control.
It is in these places that U.S. officials believe militants train fighters to carry out attacks inside Pakistan and abroad. U.S. officials say the New York city Times Square bombing suspect, Faisal Shahzad, claims he traveled to North Waziristan in the tribal region to train for his bomb plot.
White House National Security adviser James Jones and the CIA director Leon Panetta are expected to meet with top officials in Pakistan this week. They will likely emphasize the importance that U.S. President Barack Obama places on more aggressive military action against groups allied with the Taliban and al-Qaida militants.
Senior White House officials say the two top U.S. officials will discuss how a successful terrorist attack against the United States could seriously undermine the relationship between the two countries. They are also expected to compare information collected by investigators in both countries looking into the failed Times Square bomb plot.