South Asia News
Car bomb, military actions kill at least 80 in Pakistan (2nd Roundup)
May 16, 2009, 16:28 GMT
Islamabad - More than 80 lives were claimed Saturday in Pakistan, victims of an ongoing military offensive, US missile strikes and a car bombing in the country, officials said.
Most of the dead were Taliban, but the death toll also included two female school teachers and four children.
The fresh killings come as the numbers of people displaced by the military operation in the Swat Valley and neighbouring districts continue to swell.
A military spokesman said government forces have eliminated 47 Taliban fighters, including two important commanders, in Swat, Buner, Shangla and Lower Dir districts of North Western Frontier Province (NWFP), over the last 24 hours. Three soldiers were injured.
'The security forces are closing in from different directions and we have been able to inflict many more casualties,' Major General Athar Abbas told reporters in Islamabad.
He said some areas of the Swat valley and adjoining Shangla district have been cleared of the rebels. He added that displaced residents could return to their homes.
Some 12,000 Pakistani troops late last month launched operations in Malkand, where the Swat Valley and the nearby districts are located, amid immense US pressure and the collapse of a peace deal under which the government had agreed to set-up Islamic courts in exchange for disarming the estimated 4,000 militants.
According to the government claims, which cannot be independently confirmed, around 900 rebels have been eliminated to date. The conflict has also internally displaced more than 900,000 people.
The military action has triggered limited revenge attacks by the Taliban in other areas of NWFP, like the one on Saturday in Peshawar where a car bombing left 11 people, including two female teachers and four children, dead.
The mayor of district Peshawar, Omar Khan, said the blast could be retribution from the Taliban.
'The security situation is deteriorating due to the operations in Swat and Buner. The innocent people are getting killed,' he told Aaj television.
The explosion took place inside a car parked in Kashkal, a densely populated area of the Peshawar town.
'It was a car bomb, most probably in a Suzuki motor car. It was most probably remote-controlled and that is what we are looking into now,' said city police chief Safwat Ghayyur.
Ghayyur said at least 11 people were killed and more than 30 others were injured. The blast also damaged a passing school bus. Four children were killed and several others injured. Two women were also among the dead.
Separately on Saturday, two Hellfire guided missiles were reportedly fired by an unmanned aircraft and struck an Islamic seminary and a vehicle parked nearby in the Mir Ali area of the North Waziristan district that borders NWFP.
'According to the reports we received from the locals, 25 people have been killed and three more are injured in the attack,' one intelligence official in the area said.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity and had earlier put the death toll at 12, said 13 of the injured succumbed to their injuries later in the day.
He said at least three 'foreigners' were among those killed. The term is usually used to refer to al-Qaeda-linked militants from Arab and Central Asian countries.
South Waziristan is home to sanctuaries of al-Qaeda and Taliban militants launching cross-border attacks on international forces in Afghanistan.
The United States has stepped up its drone attacks in Pakistan's north-western tribal region in recent months. More than three dozen such strikes since August have killed more than 350 people, including several non-combatants.
Officially, Islamabad opposes the drone strikes, saying they are counterproductive in the fight against terrorism since they cause public anger against the US and Pakistani governments.