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19-07-07, 07:27

Pakistan suicide bombings kill 36 By ZARAR KHAN, Associated Press Writer
49 minutes ago

Suicide bombers hit a convoy of Chinese workers in southern Pakistan and a police academy in the north, killing 36 people as violence swept further across the country.

The convoy was passing though the main bazaar in Hub, a town in Baluchistan province near the port city of Karachi, when a moving car blew up next to a police vehicle, officials said.

Hub police chief Ghulam Mohammed Thaib said 29 people were killed, including seven police. About 30 other people were wounded, some critically.

"It was laden with very heavy explosives but due to our spacing and our security measures, Allah has been very kind," Maj. Gen. Saleem Nawaz, a commander of Pakistan's paramilitary Frontier Constabulary said.

The police "sacrificed their lives and the Chinese friends were absolutely safe," Nawaz said on Dawn News television.

The Chinese citizens worked at a lead extraction plant in Dudhar in Baluchistan and were temporarily leaving the area for Karachi due to security concerns, police said.

Some officials suggested the bomb was remote-controlled. But Thaib and Nawaz, whose men also were guarding the minibus carrying some 10 Chinese technicians and engineers, said it was a suicide attack.

Television pictures showed how the blast ripped off the front of several roadside shops. Several damaged cars and buses lay rammed into one another among a tangle of bricks and clothing.

In the northwest, a suicide car bomber detonated his explosives when guards prevented him from entering the parade ground of the police academy in Hangu, 45 miles southwest of Peshawar.

The bomber killed six bystanders and one policeman, and another 24 people were wounded, academy chief Attaullah Wazir said.

Suicide attacks, bombings and shootings blamed on Islamic extremists and a bloody army siege of radicals in Islamabad's Red Mosque have killed about 270 people in Pakistan so far this month, stirring doubts about the country's stability.

Much of the violence has been in North West Frontier Province, especially the frontier region of North Waziristan, where pro-Taliban militants last weekend declared the end of a 10-month-old peace deal.

On Wednesday, militants bombed and strafed an army convoy near Miran Shah, North Waziristan's main town, killing 17 troops. At least eight militants died in clashes with security forces in the area.

President Gen. Pervez Musharraf insists the accord — under which the military scaled back its operations in the U.S.-led war on terror in return for pledges from tribal leaders to contain militancy — offers the best long-term hope of pacifying the region.

Intelligence analysts in Washington say the pact has given al-Qaida new opportunities to strengthen their operations in Pakistan, Afghanistan and beyond.

Pakistan said this assessment lacks substance.

"It does not help simply to make assertions about the presence or regeneration of al-Qaida in bordering areas of Pakistan. What is needed is concrete and actionable information and intelligence sharing," the Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

Musharraf on Wednesday urged moderate Pakistanis — many of whom are pressing him to resign and restore civilian rule — to help him take on extremists.

Adding to the tension, a suicide bomber on Tuesday killed 16 people at a rally for Pakistan's suspended chief justice, whose legal battle with Musharraf has galvanized opposition to military rule. A verdict in the case is expected as early as Friday.

Critics accuse Musharraf of leading Pakistan toward civil war and using the crisis to shore up U.S. support for his eight-year-old military regime. There is growing concern that year-end elections will be postponed. However, Musharraf insisted Wednesday the ballot would go ahead.

The Hub attack follows the July 8 slaying of three Chinese men in a rickshaw workshop in Peshawar, which drew a protests from Beijing, a key ally of Pakistan, and a pledge from Islamabad to protect some 2,000 to 3,000 Chinese nationals here.

Officials have suggested the Peshawar attack was linked to the then-ongoing army operation against Islamabad's Red Mosque. Troops moved in after Islamic radicals from the mosque kidnapped several Chinese women they accused of being prostitutes.

However, ethnic Baluch insurgents have been blamed for at least two past attacks on Chinese nationals.

"These anti-state elements were also involved in the previous attacks against Chinese citizens," Baluchistan Interior Minister Mir Shoaib Nosherwani said.

China is helping build a deepwater port in Gwadar near the Iranian border that Baluch nationalists view as a symbol of the resource-rich but impoverished province's exploitation.


Associated Press writers Abdul Sattar in Quetta, Riaz Khan in Peshawar and Munir Ahmad in Islamabad contributed to this report.

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