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Suicide Bomber Kills at Least 16 in NW Pakistan

A suicide bomber has killed at least 16 people near a security checkpoint in Pakistan's restive northwest Bajaur region.

Officials say the attacker struck near the market area of the region's main town, Khar, along the border region where security forces have been battling Taliban militants. More than 20 others were wounded in Saturday's blast, with some hospitalized in critical condition.

Pakistan's military waged a major offensive against insurgents in Bajaur in 2008, declaring victory against militants by February 2009. But clashes in recent months have forced Pakistan to launch new operations, highlighting the difficulty it has in securing its tribal regions.

The suicide attack comes a day after Pakistani officials said security forces killed at least 24 suspected militants in air strikes and clashes in the Bajaur district.

In another development, Pakistani officials say at least nine militants were killed Friday in a suspected U.S. drone strike in a tribal area near the border with Afghanistan.

Officials say the drone fired at least three missiles at a compound in North Waziristan. The compound is believed to be a center for the Haqqani network, a group known to carry out attacks on U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan.

The U.S. has increased its drone strikes on al-Qaida and Taliban militants along the Pakistani border since a deadly bomb attack last month on CIA agents in Afghanistan's eastern Khost province. Pakistan-based Taliban militants are believed to have played a role in the attack.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.