Pakistan suicide bombing kills nine

December 1, 2008 12:00 am

, PESHAWAR, December 1- At least nine people were killed and 49 injured on Monday after a suicide bomber blew up his explosives-laden car in a restive north-western Pakistan valley, officials said.

The bombing took place at a security checkpoint in the town of Mingora in scenic Swat valley, which has been rocked by a violent campaign to impose harsh Islamic laws.

"According to initial reports, nine people were killed and 49 others were injured in the suicide blast at the check post," a security official told AFP.

He added that all who died were civilians, and a lone security official was among the wounded.

"The attacker was trying to approach the check post after bypassing the queue, but his car exploded on the way," the official said.

The chief of a local government hospital, Doctor Lal Noor, said that nine bodies were brought in along with the 49 who were wounded.

Pakistan is facing its worst period of violence by Islamic militants, many of who are linked to Al-Qaeda.

Nearly 1,500 people have been killed since July 2007 in a wave of militant bombings across the country.

Separately, one militant was killed and several others were injured in a clash with troops in Mingora, a security official said.

He added that authorities on Monday imposed an indefinite curfew in Mingora and that troops had launched a search operation for militants in the area.

Gunfights were also reported in several other parts of Swat valley and some arrests were made, the official said, but he did not have any more immediate details.

The mountainous, snow-capped Swat region is renowned for its ancient Buddhist relics and once attracted large numbers of foreign and local tourists with Pakistan’s only ski resort.

But since last year it has been beset by violence blamed on pro-Taliban militants.

The region has been turned into a battleground since radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah, who has links to Pakistan’s Taliban movement, launched a violent campaign for the introduction of Islamic Sharia law in the valley.

Fazlullah is known as "Mullah Radio" for broadcasting fiery speeches over his private FM radio station.

The army last year launched a major offensive in the once-popular tourist site against Islamic militants.

The Pakistani military said in February this year that there remained 400 hardcore militants hiding in the Swat valley, and vowed it would not end its offensive in the area until all of them were cleared.

However, militant attacks targeting security and government officials, girls’ schools and shops have increased in the area over the course of the year.



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