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Pakistan Attacks Renew Debate on Musharraf's Rule

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Pakistan Attacks Renew Debate on Musharraf's Rule

World

Pakistan Attacks Renew Debate on Musharraf's Rule

Pakistan Attacks Renew Debate on Musharraf's Rule

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/12045033/12045034" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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A bombing Tuesday in Pakistan's borderlands is the latest in a string of attacks by militants reacting to the recent storming and siege of Islamabad's Red Mosque. More than 100 people died in the raid.

The scale of the violence has reopened debate about the potential threat Islamist extremism poses to the military ruler and President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

Moderate Pakistanis are again asking how much sympathy exists for the militants, and whether Musharraf's strategy is making the extremists stronger.

Suicide Bomber Kills at Least 12 at Pakistan Rally

A suicide bomber in Pakistan blew himself up Tuesday, killing at least a dozen people and wounding 40 others at a rally in the capital featuring the country's suspended chief justice, police said.

In Pakistan's lawless northwest, which like the capital is reeling from a burst of violence by Islamic extremists, another suicide bomber killed three soldiers and a bystander at a key road near the Afghan border, clouding government efforts to resurrect a disputed peace pact in a stronghold of Taliban and al-Qaida militants.

The new violence comes amid a spate of bombings and suicide attacks in the northwest blamed on Islamic extremists enraged by President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's decision to storm Islamabad's Red Mosque and deploy troops in militant strongholds near the Afghan border.

In Islamabad, Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry was traveling to the rally and about three miles away when the attacker struck near the stage set up for him.

Khalid Pervez, a senior municipal official, said at least 12 people died and 40 others were wounded.

Three security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record, told The Associated Press that it was a suicide attack and that the head of the attacker had been found.

Mohammed Hafiz, an official at a nearby hospital, said ambulances were bringing in the wounded. "We have declared an emergency," he said.

There was no immediate indication of who carried out the attack. Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema said there was a "possibility" that the northwest attacks were a response to the Red Mosque raid.

"We would like to reiterate once again our unwavering resolve to eliminate the evils of terrorism and extremism in the supreme national interest," he told reporters.

Earlier Tuesday, explosions destroyed two unmanned security posts in Miran Shah itself, waking residents and sending smoke and dust billowing into the sky, another intelligence official said. No injuries were reported.

In another border area, militants killed an Afghan refugee they accused of spying for the United States, said government official Mawaz Khan.

Villagers spotted the body of the man, whose throat had been slit, in a dry river bed near a village in the Bajur region, he said. A note left on the body warned that a similar fate awaited all informers.

A total of 108 people have died in suicide attacks and bombings across the northwest since the conflict at the Red Mosque began on July 3, including 75 soldiers and police.

The mosque siege, in which more than 100 people were killed, triggered calls for revenge attacks from extremist leaders including al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri.

From Associated Press reports