"We will continue targeting all those police officials who are taking part in the ongoing military operation against us," he said.

Pro-Taliban fighters have threatened to launch suicide attacks across Pakistan after the military operations in Swat valley.

Swat was a thriving tourist resort until last year, when Maulana Fazlullah, a Pakistani Taliban leader, launched a campaign to introduce Sharia to the region.

A peace deal in May between the two sides collapsed. 

Lahore arrests

On Friday, Pakistani police in Lahore said they had arrested nine people in connection with suicide bomb attacks.

An officer shows a suicide jacket seized from men posing as preachers [AFP]

Pervez Rathore, Lahore's police chief, said the suspects came from South Waziristan, which borders Afghanistan, and planned to carry out bombings in cities in Punjab province.

"On information provided by an intelligence agency, we have arrested nine suspects and seized four suicide jackets, 10 grenades, two grenade launchers, two Kalashnikov rifles and explosives," he said.

He said that the suspects were wanted in connection with a November 2007 suicide attack against an air force bus in Sargodha in which at least eight air force personnel died.

Qaiser Mushtaq, an inspector with Pakistan's crimes investigation agency, said that the suspects were travelling in a bus posing as preachers and had packed the bomb equipment in their bedding.

Continued clashes

Also on Friday, Pakistan's army announced the loss of at least seven soliders in fighting against the pro-Taliban group.

The deaths occurred over two days of clashes as helicopter gunships pounded enemy positions in the semi-autonomous Bajaur tribal district.

Major-General Athar Abbas, Pakistan's chief military spokesman, said: "Seven Pakistani troops have been martyred and 30 militants have been killed in clashes at Loisam and its surrounding areas since Thursday."

Clashes began on Wednesday when hundreds of pro-Taliban fighters attacked the military checkpoint in Loisam, recently reoccupied by the army after a period of several months.

Loisam is on the strategically important road leading to the city of Peshawar.

Pakistan has been under mounting international pressure to put down pro-Taliban elements in the northwest and the tribal zone amid a rise in cross-border attacks on international forces in Afghanistan.
 
In recent weeks, violence has increased in Pakistan's tribal region, adding to US concerns over the Pakistan government's efforts to negotiate with the armed groups based near the Afghan border.