In The Land of Peace and Sacredness i.e. Islamic Pakistan

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11 dead, 46 hurt as bomb goes off in Pak hotel

10 Jun 2009, 0040 hrs IST, AFP || www.timesofindia.com
PESHAWAR: A massive truck bomb ripped through a luxury hotel Tuesday killing eleven people and wounding 46 in Pakistan’s Peshawar city, capital of  a northwest province plagued by Taliban violence.he bomb was hidden in a delivery truck, police and officials said, and was driven up to the fivestar Pearl Continental hotel in the high-security Khyber Road area of Peshawar and detonated outside, causing massive devastation. It is the seventh deadly bombing to hit the troubled city in a month, as fears grow that Taliban militants are exacting revenge for a punishing six-week military offensive against them in three northwest districts.  “Eleven people have been killed,” provincial police chief Malik Naveed said. “The toll is likely to rise.”
 Hospital officials said foreign nationals were among the wounded.
 “We have received 46 injured people including five foreigners,” doctor Mohammad Rehan said at the main government hospital in Peshawar.
Senior police officer Abdul Ghafoor Afridi said: “It was a bomb brought in a vehicle in the garb of hotel supplies.”
It was not immediately clear if it was a suicide attack, but witnesses and a security official said they heard gunfire before the blast.

“There was a huge blast inside PC (Pearl Continental) hotel,” Afridi said earlier, adding that the explosion led to fire in building.

Tuesday’s attack on the Pearl Continental echoes a suicide truck bomb attack on the luxury Marriott Hotel in Islamabad in September 2008 that killed 60 people.

 Pakistan has been hit by a string of devastating attacks in recent weeks, with markets and security targets hit in Peshawar and police buildings targeted in Islamabad and the cultural capital Lahore.

On Friday, a suicide bomb ripped through a mosque packed with worshippers, also in the northwest of the country, killing 38 people and wounding dozens more in the deadliest such attack in more than two months.

The Taliban in Pakistan have warned of more “massive attacks” in retaliation for the military operations against them in Swat, Lower Dir and Buner.

The current US-backed campaign centred on Swat was launched when Taliban fighters advanced to within 100 kilometres (60 miles) of Islamabad, flouting a deal to put three million people under sharia law in exchange for peace.

There were signs Tuesday that the offensive was expanding outside the Swat valley, with residents and local officials reporting shelling near a Pakistan tribal area where the US alleges al-Qaida militants are holed up.

Residents and officials in towns in Bannu district, next to the tribal areas of Waziristan, said the military had begun shelling in their region and said “hundreds” of troops had arrived in some towns, claims denied by the military.

Pakistan claims to have killed more than 1,350 militants since the assault began on April 26, although the figures are impossible to verify.

“More than 500 kilograms of explosive material was used in the blast,” senior police official Shafqat Malik said.

pix courtesy : AFP

40 killed in Pak mosque blast

Press Trust Of India
Islamabad|| June 5, 2oo9

Pakistani troops on Friday consolidated their positions in the restive northwestern Swat valley and nearby areas in the wake of two attacks by Taliban fighters that killed 14 security personnel, even as militants retaliated by targeting a mosque, leaving 40 dead.

The security forces also killed 10 more militants and apprehended six terrorists, including three activists of the banned Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariah Muhammadi in different parts of the Malakand division, the military said in a statement. Fourteen security personnel were injured in fighting over the past 24 hours.

At least 40 people were killed and dozens injured when a suicide bomber struck during weekly on Friday prayers at a crowded mosque in the restive Dir area of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province.

The powerful blast occurred when over 200 people were present in the mosque at Hayagai Sherqi in Upper Dir district, witnesses said.

Top district official Atif-ur-Rehman told reporters at least 40 people were killed and dozens injured.

Doctors in local hospitals described the condition of several of the injured as critical.

This was the ninth bomb attack in Pakistan since the army launched a campaign against the Taliban in nearby Swat valley. Local residents said the attack targeted a community that had resisted the Taliban in recent times.

A  police official   in the district told state-run APP news agency that militants targeted the mosque as local residents had stopped the Taliban’s activities and barred their entry into the area. This had annoyed the militants, he said.

Witnesses said the suicide bomber detonated his explosives when some persons tried to prevent him from entering the mosque. The explosion damaged the mosque and destroyed 14 nearby shops.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack, which coincided with US Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke’s visit to Pakistan.

Hours after army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on Thursday said the tide had “decisively turned” in Swat due to the military operation, militants shot dead 11 security personnel, including a paramilitary captain and three senior police officers, during a gun battle in Mardan district.

Militants on Thursday targeted a security forces convoy that was on its way to the restive Buner district with an improvised explosive device. Following the attack on the Rustam-Ambela road, reinforcements from the paramilitary Frontier Corps were sent to the site.       

Terrorists hiding close to the site of the ambush then attacked the Frontier Corps troops, killing a captain, three senior police officers and seven other security personnel. Twelve security personnel were injured in the gun battle that continued for several hours. Response by the security forces killed 10 terrorists in a fierce gun battle and cleared the area.

Three soldiers were killed in the troubled South Waziristan tribal region when a security forces convoy was targeted with an IED near Jandola, the military said.    

Security forces captured six terrorists, including three Afghan nationals and Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariah Muhammadi leaders Maulana Muhammad Alam, Amir Izzat Khan and Syed Wahab, during a raid on a madrassa in Amandarra, the headquarters of the TNSM. Grenades, arms and ammunition were seized during the raid, which was conducted after security forces received a tip-off that militatns were present in Amandarra.     

During a cordon and search operation at a compound in Mingora, the main city in Swat district, security forces seized 35 IEDs, 500 detonators, a large number of pistols and rifles, three Thuraya satellite phone sets, two FM transmitters and three long-range antennas. During a subsequent exchange of fire with militants, a soldier was injured.

Troops also cleared the strip running from Chakesar valley up to Aloch, Bazar Kot and Shell Qaser and established a link up with security forces north of Charbagh, a former Taliban stronghold. A militant was also captured during a search operation at Nat Kalakot.

Taliban abducted hundred  students in Pakistani tribal region for producing more jihadis.

1 Jun 2009, 2101 hrs IST, AP || www.timesofindia.com

ISLAMABAD: Taliban militants armed with rockets, grenades and automatic weapons abducted at least 400 students, staff and relatives driving away from a boy’s school in a northwest Pakistani tribal region on Monday, police and a witness said. ( Watch )

The brazen abduction came amid rising militant violence in Pakistan’s tribal belt, actions the military says are partly aimed at distracting it from its offensive against the Taliban in the nearby Swat Valley.

Police were negotiating with the Taliban via tribal elders to release of the captives taken in North Waziristan, said Mirza Mohammad Jihadi, an adviser to the prime minister. He said around 500 people were taken and that they were being held in the Bakka Khel area.

The staffer said the assailants carried rockets, Kalashnikovs, hand grenades and other weapons. He estimated around 400 captives were involved.

It was unclear how many were students, though they made up the majority of the group. Cadet colleges in Pakistan are usually run by retired military officers and educate teenagers. They also typically provide room and board.

Late Monday, reports were coming in that at least one other bus managed to get away and reach a police station. Jihadi said at least 29 students escaped, apparently in addition to the 17 at Sardar’s police station in the Marian area.

North and South Waziristan are major al-Qaida and Taliban strongholds bordering Afghanistan. Clashes over the past three days in South Waziristan have killed at least 25 militants and nine soldiers. In the latest attack, reported by the army Monday, militants fired rockets at troops, killing two.

The fresh fighting is fueling speculation that a month after re-igniting its battle against Taliban militants in Swat, the military will widen the offensive to South Waziristan. But army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said that for now, troops on the ground were simply reacting to attacks, not opening a new front.

“This is all to divert attention,” Abbas said. With its hands full in Swat, opening a front in South Waziristan now would be risky for the military.

Known for its harsh terrain, reticent tribes and porous border with Afghanistan, as well as its history of limited federal government oversight, South Waziristan would likely be a stiffer test for Pakistan’s armed forces than Swat. The region also is the main base for Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud.

However, the US and other Western nations who have praised Pakistan’s strong-armed tactics in Swat would likely not want South Waziristan to stay untouched. It’s the tribal regions, after all, where al-Qaida and the Taliban have their key bases from which they plan attacks on Western forces across the border in Afghanistan.

The tribal areas also are the rumored hideouts of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri.

Asked about a timeframe for clearing the area, Abbas simply replied, “A plan to go or not to go into South Waziristan, shouldn’t that be a highly classified matter?”

The army spokesman said major towns and cities in the Swat Valley will likely be cleared of Taliban fighters in a matter of days. It has already recaptured Mingora, Swat’s main urban center. But many of the estimated 4,000 militants in the valley are believed to have fled to the hillsides, and Abbas said clearing those rural areas could require months more work.

One other problem with tackling South Waziristan now is that it would exacerbate an already massive humanitarian challenge facing the country, that of up to 3 million people displaced by the fighting so far. Already, large numbers of families have begun leaving South Waziristan amid rumors of an imminent operation.

Journalists have limited access to the tribal belt and Swat, making it difficult to independently verify information provided by the Pakistani military or other sources.

Militants, including Mehsud loyalists, have threatened and carried out some revenge attacks over the Swat operation in major Pakistani cities, including an assault on police and intelligence agency offices in the eastern city of Lahore that left 30 dead.

On Monday, a blast at a busy bus terminal in Kohat town, an area near the tribal regions, killed at least two people and wounded at least 18 others, said local police officer Zafarullah Khan.       An AFP reporter at the scene said a deep crater was visible outside the four-story hotel, with smoke billowing around the damaged building and rescue workers rushing the wounded, including foreigners, to safety. Television footage showed ambulances and police cars streaming to the hotel, which is popular with dignitaries, officials and foreign visitors, and rescuers carrying out the injured on their backs.  

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