Biking militants die when bomb explodes prematurely 


Three Islamic militants died in eastern Pakistan when a powerful bomb they were transporting by bicycle accidentally exploded Saturday near a bustling cattle market, police said. 

Mohammed Shakil, a police inspector at the scene, told The Associated Press one of the men riding a bicycle had strapped explosives to his body that exploded prematurely

, killing himself and the two others in Cheecha Watni, a town about 100 kilometers (60 miles) east of Multan, a city in Punjab province. 

Shakil said the slain men were students of a local seminary and had links with Sipah-e-Sahaba -- a Sunni militant group outlawed by the government in 2001 in an effort to purge Pakistan of extremism. 

Local police chief Mohammed Bashir said the cattle market with hundreds of customers may have been the target, or police who had gathered for a funeral service at the home of an officer recently killed in a gunbattle with militants. 

The severed head of one of the militants was found in a nearby field, Shakil said. Police collected the suspects' remains for DNA testing. Militants have vowed to avenge the killing of their comrades by Pakistani forces in the country's deeply conservative tribal areas, where Pakistan has deployed about 80,000 soldiers to flush out Taliban and al Qaeda fighters. 

Police and security agencies have been on maximum alert following the January 26 suicide attack outside a five star hotel in Islamabad that killed a guard. A suicide bomber killed 15 people -- including a judge -- when he blew himself up inside a courtroom in a southwestern city of Quetta on February 17.