Tue, Jul 17, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Fresh Pakistan violence prompts investigations

AGENCIES , ISLAMABAD

An injured victim of a suicide attack is brought to a local hospital in Peshawar after a suicide bomber blew himself up at a police recruitment center in Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistan, on Sunday.

PHOTO: EPA

Pakistani investigators were hunting yesterday for links between a surge of violence in the northwest and an assault on a mosque in the capital as the death toll from two suicide bomb attacks on Sunday rose to 45.

Nearly 100 people, most of them members of the security forces, have been killed in attacks in the northwest since July 3, when government forces surrounded Islamabad's Red Mosque after clashes erupted.

And there are fears the collapse of a 10-month pact with militants in the North Waziristan region on the Afghan border would lead to more violence.

"We haven't found any clues yet but we're looking into that aspect," a senior investigator in the city of Dera Ismail Khan said, referring to the action against the mosque.

"Yesterday's attacks are likely to [be] linked to the Lal Masjid [Red Mosque]," said the investigator, who declined to be identified.

A suicide bomber mingled with a crowd of young men at a police recruiting center in Dera Ismail Khan, in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), on Sunday before blowing himself up. Twenty-nine people were killed.

Earlier on Sunday, two suicide car bombers ambushed a paramilitary patrol in the Swat valley, in the same province, killing 16 people.

Militants based in the North and South Waziristan tribal regions with allies in towns and cites were believed responsible, the investigator said.

"Their bases are in the tribal regions, but they obviously have local support as they can't carry out such attacks by themselves," he said.

Pakistan's rugged northwest is a hotbed of al-Qaeda and Taliban support. Militants based in tribal regions on the Afghan border have been expanding their influence into cities across the province.

Commandos stormed the heavily fortified Red Mosque last Tuesday, ending a week-long siege and killing 75 supporters of hardline clerics.

Many of the militants at the mosque and many of the religious students who studied at the complex were believed to have been from the NWFP.

Complicating things for Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was the collapse of a peace pact in North Waziristan. Militants there said on Sunday they were abandoning the pact after accusing authorities of violating it.

Thousands of Pakistanis fled North Waziristan after the peace pact collapsed. The exodus came as officials held crisis talks with clerics and tribal elders in Peshawar, capital of the NWFP.

Bazaars were deserted in North Waziristan's main city of Miranshah as hundreds of families fled the town for safer areas. State-run Radio Pakistan went off the air when broadcasters joined other government officials in leaving the tense area, local residents said.

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