41 killed by suicide bombing near Pakistan's Swat valley

Monday, October 12, 2009

Pakistani police have said that a suicide bombing near the Swat Valley killed 41 people on Monday. Monday's attack is Pakistan's fourth act of terrorism in eight days, killing a total of more than 100 people. It also came as the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for Saturday's assault on the country's heavily guarded army headquarters in Rawalpindi.

"Forty-one people were killed and 45 were injured in the suicide blast," provincial information minister Mian Iftekhar said.

Police say the attacker targeted a military convoy, setting off a huge blast in a crowded market square in the Shangla district. The suicide bomber was reported to be very young, around thirteen or fourteen years old. He flung himself at a convoy passing nearby and detonated the explosives. "When he blew himself up, some of the trucks carrying ammunition were also hit and the ammunition exploded, causes more human losses. He was 13 or 14 years old, according to our investigations so far," said a Swat Media Centre spokesman.

Earlier, the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for a 22-hour siege on the country's army headquarters that ended on Sunday. "As long as Pakistan continues its operation against the Taliban, we will also keep continuing such attacks," said Azam Tariq, a spokesman for the Taliban, to the Agence France-Presse news agency.

Army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said that security forces were able to intercept a phone conversation of Pakistani Taliban deputy leader, Wali-ur-Rehman. He added that the call was evidence the group Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan had planned the assault from South Waziristan with the intention of taking hostages in order to free captured militants.

"This organization is responsible for more than 80 percent of all the attacks, suicide attacks and acts of terrorism, in our country," Abbas said. "There will be [an] operation in this area. But it is now a matter of military judgment (of) what is the appropriate time."

Last Monday, a suicide bomber struck a heavily guarded UN aid agency in Islamabad, killing five people. On Friday, a suspected militant exploded a car bomb in the middle of a busy market in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing more than 50 people.

The Pakistani military has been proposing an operation in South Waziristan for the past several months. Tens of thousands of civilians have fled the area.

The former security chief of Pakistan's tribal regions, Mahmood Shah, told the Voice of America news agency that the recent attacks, including Saturday's assault, show the militants are united and may want to antagonize the international community.

"The message by [the] attack on the GHQ [Pakistan's army headquarters] is possibly that the army is protecting (the country's] nuclear assets, and therefore, if the GHQ can be attacked, how can [the army] protect the nuclear assets?" Shah asked.

However, Pakistani authorities dismissed suggestions that Pakistan's nuclear installations are threatened by the country's growing insurgency.

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