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Suicide bomber kills 25 at Pakistani frontier hotel

Officials said the blast might have been retaliation for the weekend killing of Taliban leader Mullah Dadullah.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan - The suicide bomber's severed leg, found in the rubble of a restaurant where he killed 25 people, was wrapped with brown tape used to seal packages. On the tape, scrawled in the Pashto language, was an ominous warning.

"Those who spy for America will face this same fate," it said.

The bomb went off yesterday in the four-story Marhaba Hotel in an old quarter of this frontier city, which served as the main staging point for mujahedeen in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan in the 1980s and is still synonymous with violent Islamic radicalism and political intrigue.

Security officials indicated the bombing could be retaliation for the weekend killing of Mullah Dadullah, the Taliban's military chief in Afghanistan - a further sign that the war between Islamic extremists and NATO forces was spilling across the border.

The lunchtime blast devastated the ground-floor restaurant, leaving corpses and body parts scattered among broken tables and shattered crockery.

In addition to the warning for those who spy for the United States, provincial police chief Sharif Virk said, the parcel tape bore the Persian word Khurasan - often used in extremist videos to describe Afghanistan.

Two security officials told the Associated Press that a close relative of Dadullah was arrested in the restaurant a few days ago. The officials requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

They declined to identify the relative or say whether the arrest helped the U.S. military kill Dadullah in Afghanistan over the weekend. He was one of the most senior militant leaders to die since the Taliban regime was ousted in late 2001 for hosting al-Qaeda.

Javed Iqbal Cheema, a top Pakistani counterterrorism official, told reporters that he did not think yesterday's bombing was linked to Dadullah, and denied that Pakistan had provided any intelligence that led to his killing.

"I would only say that Dadullah was killed in Afghanistan, and Pakistan did not provide any intelligence on Dadullah," he said in Islamabad.

Still, a senior investigator said police were examining whether the attack could be linked to events in Pakistan's volatile tribal regions or Afghanistan, including Dadullah's demise.

The bomb went off shortly after the restaurant's Afghan owner, Saddar Uddin, returned from a trip outside with some relatives, said waiter Hassan Khan. Uddin, his two sons, two other relatives, and seven employees were among the dead, he said.

A local intelligence official said Uddin, an ethnic Uzbek, had links to the party of anti-Taliban warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, part of the Northern Alliance that helped the United States topple the old regime.

Cheema said that 25 people were killed and 30 wounded in the bombing. Among the dead were two women and a 5-year-old boy, police officer Saeed Khan said.

The waiter, Hassan Khan, said he survived because he was delivering food to guests in their rooms when the bomb went off in the restaurant below.

"I lost my senses, and when I came round and ran to see, there were dead bodies and body parts everywhere, even out in the street," said Khan, whose clothes were stained with blood and soot.

Peshawar, the capital of North West Frontier province, has an enduring reputation as a hub for armed extremists and a spy-infested nest of political intrigue.

Suspended Top Justice Gets Pakistani Hearing

Pakistan's chief justice challenged his suspension by President Pervez Musharraf before the highest court yesterday, alleging he had been held against his will for several hours in the leader's army office.

Calm returned to much of Pakistan after weekend riots that killed 41 people and a general strike Monday, refocusing attention on Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry's case challenging his suspension by Musharraf two months ago.

The Supreme Court is examining more than 20 petitions contesting the suspension, including one filed by Chaudhry himself.

Also yesterday in the region,

at least 11 suspected Taliban and possibly dozens more were killed by NATO air

strikes on Taliban compounds in southern Afghanistan, officials said.

- Associated PressEndText