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Terrorism & Security

Pakistan attacks disrupt an expected postelection calm

Recent suicide bombings raise questions about the country's future after Musharraf.

By David Montero / March 3, 2008

In four separate incidents over the weekend, suicide bombers struck large gatherings in Pakistan, shattering a fragile sense of optimism that has prevailed since national elections on Feb. 18.

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The hope has been that those elections, by empowering Pakistan's moderate, secular parties, could help stem Pakistan's rising tide of extremism, which has left about 500 people dead this year. But for the last week, the elections have not brought a much needed sense of calm and euphoria.

But in what seems to be a stepped-up effort to sow chaos and fear, suicide bombers struck on Friday in Lakki Marwat, in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province, killing a district superintendent of police, CNN reports. The following day, militants struck again during that police official's funeral in Swat Valley – where the Army is still battling Taliban militants – killing 46 people. On Saturday, a suicide bomber targeted the vehicle of a security official in Bajaur Agency, a Taliban enclave near the border of Afghanistan, killing 21 people, the Associated Press reports.

The New York Times reports,

Sunday's attack was against a gathering of the five main tribes of Darra Adamkhel, who assembled near a government checkpoint to work out a joint plan against militants in the area. Pakistani security forces started operations in January against local militants in the town, which lies on the main Indus Highway about 20 miles south of Peshawar, after the militants seized several Army weapons trucks. The fighting lasted a week and left scores of security personnel and militants dead.
More than 1,000 tribesmen attended the meeting, voting to form their own force against militants who have been attacking people under a call for Islamization.

The deaths come as President Pervez Musharraf is reportedly increasing efforts to work with tribal leaders to rid Pakistan's tribal area of terrorist groups, Bloomberg news reports.

Musharraf is trying to persuade tribal leaders to expel non-Pakistani terrorists sheltering in the border region where the army has deployed about 100,000 soldiers since it began an operation in 2003 to combat al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters.

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