Pakistan

Pakistan: 47 killed in mosque blast and military operations

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KHAR: In all 47 persons were killed in suicide bombing at a mosque, shelling by the artillery and jet fighters in the Bajaur tribal region, and an air strike hit militants in Swat valley, officials said. NATO forces have launched "Operation Lionheart" recently to put pressure along the Afghan side of the border across from Bajaur and squeeze the Taliban and al Qaeda militants into areas where they can be attacked more easily. "The blast took place in the mosque run by an anti-militant tribal elder, Haji Rehmatullah." According to a private TV channel, worshippers were leaving after evening prayers at the mosque 22 kilometres northwest of Khar, the main town of Bajaur tribal region, when the bomber blew himself up, killing seven people and wounding three others. Rehmatullah was killed in the attack and was the main target of the bomber. According to the report, casualties could have been much higher, but there were only about 10 people in the mosque when the attack occurred. The latest clashes erupted in parts of Mamond and Nawagai districts of Bajaur overnight. "Twenty-four militants, including 11 foreign fighters, probably Uzbeks, and a local commander have been killed in exchanges of fire with security forces in the last 24 hours," a spokesman for the paramilitary Frontier Corps said. Pakistani troops are also battling militants in the northwestern valley of Swat, and there is widespread expectation the next offensive will target the Mohmand tribal region. Sixteen militants were killed in an airstrike on a school building used by militants in Swat's Matta town on Thursday, a military official said. On Wednesday, at least five militants were killed and four others injured when security forces heavily shelled militants' hideouts at Tehsils Nawagai and Mamond . The security officials told APP that the militants received heavy casualties at various areas of Mamond and Nawagai Tehsils when their suspected dens and centres were targeted on Tuesday night and on Wednesday. Dozens of hideouts and dens of Taliban were destroyed. On the directives of Political Agent Bajaur Agency, Safeerullah Khan, the local administration has tightened security by establishing check-posts at important routs and installations. Meanwhile, two tribal elders of Mamond tribal laskhar made hostage by Taliban last escaped from their custody today. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani strongly condemned the Bajaur blast on Thursday which resulted in death of two persons. In a statement, the Prime Minister expressed his sorrow over the loss of lives in the cowardly act.

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