PESHAWAR // Taliban gunmen attacked a school bus in north-western Pakistan yesterday, killing four children and the driver in an assault they said was carried out to punish local tribesman for resisting the insurgent movement.
At least 14 other children and two female teachers were wounded in the attack in Matani on the outskirts of the main north-western city of Peshawar, said police officer Ejaz Khan.
Two local tribal leaders in Matani have raised local militias to stop militant infiltration into Peshawar from the nearby border regions with Afghanistan. They get government financial and logistical help, and have killed or captured many militants over the last 18 months.
But they and their families have been ruthlessly targeted by the militants, which until three years ago were in control of the area. Its proximity to the tribal regions and the main northwestern city of Peshawar make it highly strategic.
"This was to teach them a lesson and we will continue to carry out attacks wherever and whenever possible no matter if it is a school or a school bus," said Mohammed Afridi, a Pakistani Taliban spokesman in the Dara Adam Khel region, which is close to Matani.
Officer Khan said five gunmen armed with assault rifles and rocket launchers attacked the van, which was taking students from the Khyber Grammar School. He said no rocket fire hit the van and that all students were boys between the age of 10 and 15.
Militants seeking to overthrow Pakistan's western-backed government have carried out hundreds of attacks in recent years, mostly against security force, civilian or state targets. The army, supported by the United States, is battling the insurgents in several regions, but the extremists have proved resilient.
The government has also supported the creation of tribal militias to fight the Taliban. They have had some success in stopping the spread of the insurgency, but have been repeatedly attacked. Many of the deadliest strikes in recent years have been against the tribal forces, or civilians living in their areas.
Elsewhere in the northwest, the bodies of two young men were found with a note saying they were killed by the Pakistani Taliban for spying on one of its commanders. They were found in their home village of Pahar Khel in Lakki Marwat district, said police officer Syed Khan. They had been shot.