21 tribal policemen found slain in Pakistan

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PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- Twenty-one tribal policemen believed to have been kidnapped by the Taliban were found shot dead in Pakistan's troubled northwest tribal region early today, government officials said.

Officials found the bodies shortly after midnight in the Jabai area of Frontier Region Peshawar after being notified by a policeman who had escaped, said Naveed Akbar Khan, a top political official in the area.

Another policeman was found seriously wounded, he said.

The 23 policemen went missing before dawn Thursday when militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons attacked two posts in Frontier Region Peshawar. Two policemen were also killed in the attacks.

Militants lined the policemen up on a cricket pitch late yesterday and gunned them down, another local official said.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but suspicion fell on the Pakistani Taliban, who have been waging a bloody insurgency against the government for the past few years. The tribal region is the main sanctuary for the Taliban in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, an explosion ripped through a passenger bus at a terminal in the southern city of Karachi Saturday, killing six people and wounding 52 others, some of whom were in critical condition, said Seemi Jamali, a doctor at the hospital where the victims were being treated.

Police were trying to determine whether the blast, which reduced the bus to a charred skeleton, was caused by a bomb or a gas canister that exploded, police spokesman Imran Shaukat said. Many buses in Pakistan run on natural gas.

Karachi has a long history of political, ethnic and sectarian violence. It is also believed to be home to many Taliban militants.

Also yesterday, a government official said authorities are investigating allegations that cough syrup has killed 33 people over the past three days in eastern Pakistan, the second time in recent months medicine is suspected of causing multiple deaths. Another 54 people thought to have consumed the syrup are being treated at hospitals.

Authorities believe the victims drank the syrup to get high, said the official, Abdul Jabbar Shaheen.

Tests show the victims' stomachs contained dextromethorphan, a synthetic morphine derivative used in cough syrup that can have mind-altering effects if consumed in large quantities, he said.

Investigators are trying to determine if the victims drank too much syrup, or whether there was a problem with the medicine itself, he said.

Twenty-three people died in the nearby city of Lahore in November after drinking bad cough syrup.

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