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Pakistan: 35 killed in suicide attacks
K J M Varma in Islamabad
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The Lal Masjid Standoff

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July 15, 2007 15:19 IST
Last Updated: July 15, 2007 20:30 IST

Suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda [Images] militants carried out a series of suicide bombings in Pakistan's restive North West Frontier Province for the second consecutive day on Sunday killing 35 people, most of them security personnel, in a backlash to the bloody military crackdown on the Lal Masjid.

The country's volatile tribal areas were turned into virtual killing fields in three different suicide attacks.

A suicide bomber struck a police station in the city of Dera Ismail Khan when recruitment of policemen was going on, District Police Officer Gul Afzal Afridi said.

"At least 20 policemen were killed in the blast," PTV quoted officials as saying.

A number of tribal areas of the province, including Sawad and Waziristan, resembled a war zone as local Taliban elements apparently backed by Al Qaeda began attacking convoys carrying soldiers as Pakistan Army poured in troops to challenge the writ of the militants.

Earlier, 11 troops and four civilians were killed and 29 others injured in two different attacks in Pakistan's mountainous Swat valley in North West Frontier Province, Pakistan Defence spokesman Maj Gen Waheed Arshad said.

Arshad told PTV that three improvised devises exploded when the army convoy was heading to Matta, a town, some 25 km from Mingora, the largest city in Swat valley.

He said four civilians were also killed in the blasts.

TV channels, however, said the two blasts like that of Saturday's were suicide attacks with bombers using explosive-laden vehicles targeting the army convoys.

The government had sent soldiers to Swat and several other areas to deal with the armed supporters of the Lal Masjid in the area.

Maulana Fazalullah, a young cleric in Swat who was also related to slain Lal Masjid cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi, had threatened to avenge the deaths in the military operation at Lal Masjid.

Fazalullah is the son-in-law of Sofi Muhammad, head of the banned group Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-Muhammadi. He has been in prison since 2001, when he returned from Afghanistan after resisting US troops deployed there.

He spoke to people on his FM radio early on Sunday saying that security forces have been sent to the area to arrest him.

"I am going to an unknown destination," Fazalullah said.

On Saturday, a suicide bomber crashed his car into a convoy of security forces in North Waziristan tribal region killing 24 soldiers.

Reports from Matta area said that heavy gunfire erupted in many places and the hospitals were filled with the bodies of the dead and injured.

The scale of attacks made officials in Islamabad suspect whether Al Qaeda elements who were believed to have been holed up in Matta area are directing attacks at troops to prevent their deployment in the area.

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