Child bomber kills 41 in suicide attack at market
Pakistan's military targeted as Taliban steps up its offensive
A Taliban suicide bomber aged as young as 12 blew himself up in a busy market place in north-west Pakistan, killing at least 41 people and injuring dozens more yesterday.
It was the fourth major terrorist attack in Pakistan within a week.
The attacks, which have claimed more than 100 lives, represent a major escalation by the Taliban and come before the army launches a major offensive against militant targets in South Waziristan, near the Afghan border.
The bomber, said by local security sources to be aged 12 or 13, targeted a military vehicle that was passing through a bazaar in Alpuri in Shangla district, on the edge of the Swat Valley, where the military is just completing an anti-Taliban operation.
All six military personnel in the vehicle were killed but dozens of civilians in the bazaar were also killed.
"The bomber hit one of three military vehicles that were passing through the busiest market in the district," said Khan Bahadur Khan, Shangla's senior police official.
The Pakistani Taliban has brainwashed children to carry out such missions, and is known to have run "suicide schools" in Waziristan and Swat.
The army is expected to launch a ground offensive within days in Waziristan, which is the epicentre of Pakistani jihadism, as well as a crucial refuge for Afghan insurgents and al-Qa'ida.
The bomb killed four army troops and two policemen, besides dozens of civilians, said Amir Muqam, the parliament representative from the Shangla valley, where the attack took place.
"At least 48 are injured, many are in a serious condition," he said.
The past week's Taliban attacks may have bolstered public support for the military to launch a new offensive against the guerrillas, as the US has been seeking.
A commando-style assault on Pakistan's army headquarters in Rawalpindi at the weekend has made the Waziristan campaign, which has been discussed for months, even more pressing.
The assault and ensuing hostage situation left 14 military and civilian personnel dead.
The army's chief spokesman, Maj Gen Athar Abbas, said yesterday the gunmen, who wore army uniforms, had planned to hold senior army officers hostage until their demands were met. They issued a list of demands topped by the release of 100 jailed extremists, as well as demanding the trial of the former US-backed military ruler Pervez Musharraf, and the expulsion of American officials from Pakistan.
The terrorists had held 22 hostages in a single small room, with a suicide bomber in the middle, ready to blow himself up. The man wearing the suicide vest was killed before he could press the trigger. (© Daily Telegraph, London)