Pakistan bloodshed continues
At least ten people were killed in a suicide attack in Pakistan's Swat valley on Saturday, a day after a series of bombings brought chaos and bloodshed to the city of Lahore, police said.
The bomber blew himself up in Saidu Sharif, on the southern outskirts of Mingora, the main town of Swat, where the military said several months ago it had quelled a Taliban uprising.
"A total of ten people have been killed and 37 were wounded. It was a suicide attack," senior police official Qazi Jamil told AFP by telephone. Three security personnel and a nine year old child were also among the dead.
"The suicide bomber was on foot. He was trying to enter the building and blew himself up after being stopped by police," he said.
A spokesman for the army-run Swat media centre also confirmed the death toll and said by telephone that two policemen and one soldier were killed.
The area was cordoned off by security forces and all shops and markets were immediately closed, residents said.
"Some 20 vehicles were also damaged in this blast. The bomber was carrying 15 kilograms (33 pounds) of explosive," Jamil added.
On Friday, twin suicide attacks seconds apart targeted the Pakistani military, killing 57 people in the crowded R A Bazaar area of Lahore.
Five small bombs later exploded in the cultural capital, causing no casualties but alarming residents.
Swat has been held up as a success story in Pakistan's fight against Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants by local and US officials, who have praised the military for apparently ending a two-year local Taliban insurgency.
The former tourist resort, once favoured for its pristine natural beauty and skiing, slipped out of Islamabad's control in July 2007 after radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah mounted a violent campaign to enforce Islamic sharia law.
Pakistan launched a blistering air and ground offensive in the valley after militants marched out of Swat and advanced to within 100 kilometres of the capital Islamabad in April 2009.
The army says the area is now safe and most of the two million people who fled their homes have returned, but sporadic outbreaks of violence continue, while some fear the Swat Taliban are regrouping elsewhere in the northwest.
A suicide car bomber hit a military convoy last month in the centre of Mingora, killing nine people, including children.
Also on Saturday, an anti-Taliban tribal elder from Mohmand district and two tribal policemen were killed on the outskirts of Peshawar when militants on a motorcycle opened fire on their vehicle, police said.
"Militants are involved in this incident," Kalam Khan, a senior police official said by telephone.
Pakistan's military is now engaged in fighting in the northwest tribal belt along the Afghan border, where the core Taliban leadership and Al-Qaeda-linked militants are holed up in the rugged mountain terrain.
More than 3,000 people have been killed in suicide and bomb attacks across Pakistan since July 2007 in a deadly campaign blamed on Islamist militants opposed to the government's alliance with the United States.
Washington says militants use Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal belt to plot and stage attacks in Afghanistan, where more than 120,000 NATO and US troops are helping Afghan forces battle the Taliban militia.
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