Pakistan attacks claim lives

Three soldiers among seven killed in fresh anti-government violence in northwest.

    Islamabad's Lal Masjid was the scene of a protracted standoff in July with Muslim conservatives [AFP]

    Fighters also wounded one paramilitary soldier on Monday in an attack in Miranshah, using an improvised explosive device.
     
    Arshad said seven suspects had been arrested.
     
    Serial attacks
     
    Pakistan has been hit by a series of attacks and suicide bombings, especially in its tribal areas near the Afghan border, after a military assault on the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, complex in Islamabad, the national capital, early this month.
     
    More than 100 people were killed in that assault and an anti-government backlash has followed.
     
    While violence has been heaviest in the northwest, Islamabad itself has experienced two suicide bomb attacks since the Lal Masjid assault, the latest on Friday when 14 people, eight of them policemen, were killed.
     
    Mosque occupied
     
    In the second incident, armed Muslim men on Sunday occupied a shrine and adjacent mosque and named the complex after Lal Masjid, Muhammad Nasir, a government official, said.

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    Calling themselves Taliban, about 50 masked men took control of the area in Lakarai town near the Afghan border.
     
    "They are saying they will construct Jamia Hafsa and Jamia Faridia madrasas (religious schools) for male and female students there," Nasir said, referring to two institutions affiliated to Lal Masjid.
     
    "We have intensified security around the shrine and mosque," he said, but he declined to comment on whether any action was immediately planned to clear the buildings.
     
    Lakarai is in Mohmand district, next door to Bajaur tribal agency, a hotbed of support for al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters.
     
    Official missing
     
    Meanwhile, authorities are searching for an intelligence official kidnapped at the weekend in Mir Ali town of North Waziristan.
     
    The Waziristan region has long been regarded as a safe haven for al-Qaeda and Taliban members sheltered by allies among the local Pashtun tribes.
     
    Pakistani authorities struck a deal with the local fighters last September in a bid to isolate foreign groups and curb cross-border incursions into Afghanistan.
     
    But the fighters denounced the agreement early this month and have since launched several attacks on security forces.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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