Raw video : A suicide bomber blew up a vehicle packed with explosives at a police checkpoint in northwest Pakistan, killing 18 police and civilians, officials said Thursday.
Pakistan security troops are frequent targets for extremist militants who oppose the government's alliance in the US-led "war on terror" and more than 1,500 government forces have been killed by insurgents since 2002.
The bomber blew up his vehicle late Wednesday in Charsadda, just north of Peshawar in the North West Frontier Province.
"Police were searching a vehicle when a mini-truck came and blew up," senior police official Sefwat Ghayour told AFP.
"Bodies of two civilians were found near the site of the attack, raising the death toll in the attack to 18," local police official Nasrullah Khan told AFP.
Khan said seven policemen were wounded, two of them seriously. They were all taken to Peshawar for treatment, he added.
Hospital official Mohammad Ali confirmed 18 people were killed.
"We have received 18 bodies in our hospital," Ali said, adding that the dead included nine police and nine civilians.
Police also retrieved video footage from a damaged vehicle at the scene, showing two boys wearing suicide jackets, who looked like teenagers. One recited from the Koran and the second was shown smiling, said Ghayour.
"We cannot say at this stage whether the two boys were the attackers or someone else did it," the police official told AFP.
There has been no claim for the attack and police have not been able to confirm the identity of the bomber.
Initial inquiries revealed that more than 200 kilograms (440 pounds) of explosives were used.
Wednesday's blast left a large crater, shattered windows in nearby buildings and severed power cables, plunging the area into darkness.
Joint funeral prayers were said for five of the dead policemen, their bodies carried in wooden coffins wrapped in the national flag at police headquarters in Charsadda.
The large town has been scarred by several suicide bombings and is home to the chief of the ruling Awami National Party, Asfandyar Wali Khan, who narrowly escaped a suicide attack last year.
The bombing drew immediate condemnation from President Asif Ali Zardari, in Japan for a key donors conference, and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.
Extremist attacks in Pakistan, a key US ally, have killed more than 1,700 people across the country since government forces besieged gunmen holed up in a radical mosque in Islamabad in July 2007.
Much of the violence has been concentrated in northwest Pakistan, where the army has been fighting hardline Taliban and Al-Qaeda extremists who fled the 2001 US-led invasion of neighbouring Afghanistan.
Taliban militants in the restive North Waziristan tribal area shot dead a local tribesman they accused of spying for US forces in Afghanistan and abducted a week ago, local police official Mehboob Ali said.
The bullet-riddled body of Wali Zaman, 30, was found dumped on a road in Pirkaley, 10 kilometres (six miles) east of the town Miranshah.
Islamist militants routinely kidnap and kill people on charges of spying for the Pakistani government or US forces battling a Taliban-led insurgency in war-torn Afghanistan.
Charsadda borders Malakand, which is subject to a regulation signed this week by Zardari to enforce sharia law as part of efforts to end an insurgency.
The central government lost control in Swat, a district of Malakand and former jewel in the crown of Pakistani tourism, after cleric Maulana Fazlullah launched a campaign to enforce Taliban-style sharia.
For nearly two years, militants have beheaded opponents, bombed schools and fought government forces, prompting tens of thousands of people to flee.
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