Pakistani authorities on Monday were investigating a weekend of suicide attacks that killed at least 73 people, tracking suspected links between the bombings and the army's recent assault on a mosque held by Islamic extremists.
Powerful tribal groups in the country's west – many with strong ties to the Taliban - also rescinded a peace treaty with the government, adding to the pressure building on President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's pro-U.S. government.
On Sunday, two suicide bombers and a roadside bomb struck a military convoy near Swat, while a suicide bomber targeted scores of people taking exams for recruitment to the police in the city of Dera Ismail Khan.
Officials also have said that several "foreign militants" – code for Arab and Afghan fighters with links to the Taliban -Qaida - were among more than 100 killed during an eight-day army siege of the mosque, but have provided no evidence to support that.
Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao said the government looking into a connection with the weekend bombings. Sherpao, speaking to Geo television news, did not elaborate.
The attacks on Saturday and Sunday followed strident calls by extremists to avenge the government's bloody storming of the mosque and a declaration of jihad, or holy war, by at least one pro-Taliban cleric.
Meanwhile, militants in North Waziristan also tore up a pact forged by Musharraf's government, stepping up pressure on the military leader as he struggles with both Islamic extremists and a gathering pro-democracy movement.
Abdullah Farhad, a militant spokesman who announced the termination of the 10-month-old cease-fire with militants in the North Waziristan region, said Taliban leaders made the decision after the government failed to withdraw troops from checkpoints in the region. He also accused authorities of launching attacks and failing to compensate those harmed.
The U.S. national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, expressed support but also voiced some criticism of Musharraf's performance against militants.
"The action has at this point not been adequate, not effective," Hadley said. "He's doing more. We are urging him to do more, and we're providing our full support to what he's contemplating," Hadley told Fox News.
The United States said in March it would give Pakistan $750 million in economic development aid aimed at undercutting support for extremists in the northwest. However, it is unclear how the funds, which are to be released over five years, will be spent in a region where the government has little control.
The government deployed thousands of troops to restive areas of North West Frontier Province in recent days in hopes of stemming the backlash from the Red Mosque. But they failed to prevent the suicide attacks and bombings that killed a total of 73 people.
Dera Ismail Khan was put on high alert Monday, with police checking vehicles leaving and entering the city, said Gul Afzal Afridi, a senior police officer.
Since the mosque siege began July 3, 105 people have died in militant attacks, almost all of them in the northwest, according to an Associated Press count compiled from official sources. Among them were 72 members of the security forces.
From Associated Press reports