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Pakistani militants kill 45 in mosque backlash attacks


Islamabad : Suicide bombers Sunday targeted a military convoy and a police recruitment centre in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), killing 45, including 29 security officials, taking the weekend death toll in backlash attacks against military action at Lal Masjid to around 70.

“Two suicide bombers rammed their cars packed with explosives into a military convoy at a bus stand in Matta area of Swat district and a third landmine explosion occurred simultaneously,” military spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad said.

Eleven soldiers died on the spot, while three more succumbed to injuries at the hospital.

Four civilians, including three from the same family, also died in the incident when the blasts demolished two houses and damaged four others.

Two charred bodies of the suspected suicide bombers were also found at the scene, while 39 people were injured in the attack.

In another incident, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a police recruitment centre in another NWFP district, Dera Ismail Khan.

“At least 26 people have died in the incident, including 15 policemen,” city police chief Habib ur-Rehman said, fearing that the death toll might increase as many of the 50 injured were in a critical condition.

The attacks came a day after a suicide bomber killed 24 soldiers and injured 29 in the country’s tribal region of North Waziristan, where pro-Taliban militants announced Sunday they were pulling out of a peace deal with the Pakistani government.

“Our main objective for signing the agreement was safety and protection of the life and property of our people, but the government forces continued attacks on the Taliban and killed several people,” the Taliban Shura, or council, said in pamphlets distributed in the area.

The peace accord was signed in September 2006 to end the two-year military operation against the militants under which tribesmen were obliged to contain the activities of foreign fighters, who launch cross-border attacks on NATO forces in Afghanistan.

NWFP has experienced an upsurge in militant attacks on security forces since the last week’s Islamabad Red Mosque storming operation, which, according to the government, left 102 people dead.

Supporters of the Red Mosque, including members of the banned extremist organisation Nifaze Sharaiat-I-Mohammed in the Swat district, have vowed to take revenge for the operation, which they claim took the lives of hundreds of students.

Maulana Sami ul-Haq, a pro-Taliban leader in NWFP with a strong following, warned during 10-day long siege of the Red Mosque, “The issue, if not resolved right now, will set off an unstoppable series of suicide attacks and bombings across the country.”

Angry opposition rallies were held in several cities on Friday over President Pervez Musharraf’s decision to use force to end the long confrontation with the hardline clerics that ran the complex.

In excerpts of his will that were published by the local media, the mosque’s slain deputy chief cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi said, “We have a firm belief in God that our blood will lead to a revolution in the country.”

The suicide attacks of Sunday could be linked with the security action at the Red Mosque, Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao told Geo news channel, adding that security was being beefed up in the province but that it was difficult to stop a suicide bomber.