Thu, Nov 09, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Suicide attack kills 42 Pakistani troops

RETALIATION? The attacker blew himself up days after the leader of an outlawed group swore revenge for an army raid on an Islamic school in which 80 people died

AP , DARGAI, PAKISTAN

A suicide attacker detonated a bomb at the Pakistan army's main training base yesterday, killing at least 42 soldiers as they started their calisthenics exercises, the military said.

"A man wrapped in a cloak came running into the training area and exploded himself where recruits had gathered for training," the army said in a statement.

No one claimed responsibility for the explosion in Dargai, 100 km north of Peshawar, the capital of North West Province.

If it is confirmed that Islamic militants carried out the attack, it would be the deadliest so far by the insurgents on the Pakistani army.

Durrani said 42 soldiers died and 20 others were injured. He said about 200 soldiers had formed up for morning exercises when the attack occurred.

"This is a contemptible act and everyone should condemn it," Durrani told journalists in Islamabad.

Shortly after the explosion, security agents captured an alleged accomplice of the suicide bomber after chasing him into a nearby village, an intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media.

Local resident Lal Zaman, 25, told reporters that he was sitting at a nearby shop when the attack occurred.

"I saw body parts and injured people everywhere in the ground where the soldiers do their morning exercises every day," he said. "I helped soldiers transport the bodies and wounded soldiers to hospitals."

The military has been waging a campaign to clear pro-Taliban militants from the border region, which it says is used as a staging area for attacks into Afghanistan.

Dargai is also a stronghold of an outlawed Islamic group Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat Mohammadi, or Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Law, which has been fighting government forces since 2002 in the tribal regions which border Afghanistan.

The group's fugitive leader, Faqir Mohammed, vowed last week to retaliate against the army with suicide bombers for an Oct. 30 Pakistani army raid on an Islamic school that killed 80 people and sparked furious protests across the country.

Pakistan's government said the school in the Bajur tribal region, about 75km from Dargai, served as a front for training militants. Local people and an Islamic opposition party said that almost all the victims were children or teenagers studying at the school.

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