Reuters : Two suicide attacks kill 37 in Pakistan

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Two suicide attacks kill 37 in Pakistan

By Zeeshan Haider | July 19, 2007

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Two suicide bomb attacks killed at least 37 people in Pakistan on Thursday, as a militant backlash intensified following the army's storming of radical mosque in Islamabad earlier this month.

A wave of bomb attacks since a siege and assault on the Lal Masjid or Red Mosque complex, a militant stronghold in the capital, has swept across Pakistan, killing more than 160.

At least 30 people were killed on Thursday when a car bomber apparently targeting a vehicle carrying Chinese workers involved in mining activities rammed into a police van escorting them in the southern town of Hub.

The Chinese workers escaped unhurt but all seven policemen in the van and 23 bystanders were killed. Twenty-eight people were wounded.

Another seven people, including policemen, were killed in a car bomb attack in the far northwestern city of Hangu early on Thursday.

The attack in Hub, which lies at the border of Baluchistan and Sindh provinces, was the biggest -- and the first in southern Pakistan -- during the recent wave of violence.

"I saw flames all around me after a big bang. It appeared as if cars were flying in the air," Mohammad Raheem, a 17-year-old laborer, who was injured in the blast, told Reuters in a hospital in Karachi.

"There were cries and screams all around. After that I don't know what happened. I just fainted."

Chinese workers have been targeted in the same region by Baluch separatists in the past, but police suspected that the latest attack was part of a backlash against the storming of the Islamabad mosque.

"We believe it is part of the recent attacks carried out by Islamist militants," Tariq Masood Khosa, police chief of Baluchistan, told Reuters.

President Pervez Musharraf said on Wednesday he had no intention of declaring a state of emergency to counter the growing insecurity, and gave assurances that elections due later this year would go ahead as planned.


Karachi's stock market had gained almost 40 percent since the beginning of 2007, but the escalating violence has lopped close to 6 percent off the market's main index in the past two days.

A cleric in the southern city voiced fears of civil war if Musharraf stepped up his fight on militants in the northwest.

"Musharraf has chosen a dangerous path," said Mufti Muhammad Naeem of Karachi's largest Islamic school in the aftermath of the Islamabad mosque bloodshed. "I think this situation could blow up in an all-out civil war."

The government said 102 people had been killed in the storming of the Lal Masjid. Many victims came from the northwest, most of them followers of cleric brothers advocating a militant brand of Islam reminiscent of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The car bomber who blew himself up at a police training centre in the northwestern city of Hangu, killing at least seven people, timed his attack to coincide with the arrival of a group of young recruits.

"The attacker tried to crash through the gate. He blew himself up as security guards at the gate tried to stop him," said Fakhr-e-Alam, top administration official of the city.

Hangu, which itself has a history of sectarian violence, is close to the lawless tribal regions on the Afghan border, known to be hotbeds of support for al Qaeda and Taliban militants.

A large number of al Qaeda fighters and their allies fled to Pakistan's tribal areas after U.S.-led forces toppled the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001.

At the same time as militants are believed to be taking revenge for the government's mosque complex assault in the capital, pro-Taliban fighters have abandoned a 10-month-old peace pact in North Waziristan, raising fears of a resurgence in violence, mainly in the conservative northwest. Authorities on Thursday sent tribal elders to the militants in a bid to salvage the pact.

(Additional reporting by Imtiaz Shah in Karachi, Gul Yusufzai in Quetta and Sami Paracha in Kohat)

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