Children killed in Pakistan bombing


A suicide bomber rammed a car packed with explosives into a police checkpost in the volatile Swat valley in northwest Pakistan today, killing seven people including two children and a policeman.

The attack, near Swat's main town of Mingora, came a day after the military said it had cleared the scenic valley of most militants led by a firebrand pro-Taliban cleric, whose insurgent followers had clashed with troops in the area for weeks.

The attacker was driving from Matta, a town known as a militant stronghold, to Mingora. A military spokesman in Swat said the head of the bomber had been found at the site of the blast.

In a separate incident, residents said three decapitated bodies had been found near the town of Matta. Their bodies were later brought to Mingora. The bodies had their hands and feet tied with ropes.

The military spokesman said the men were "local Taliban" and might have been killed by residents, but there was no independent verification.

Yesterday, the commander of military operations in Swat said insurgents in the area were on the run but remained dangerous.

Militants seized tracts of the Swat valley, a former tourist destination 100 miles from the capital, Islamabad, this summer, raising concern about the spread of Islamic militancy from along the Pakistan-Afghan border.

Followers of pro-Taliban cleric Maulana Fazlullah had fended off security forces sent to reinforce the area's beleaguered police since July, but have been scattered by a major army operation launched last month.

Major General Nasser Janjua said yesterday his 20,000-strong force has retaken all the towns seized by the militants, killing 290 of them and capturing 140, while driving a hard-core group of some 400-500 into the Piochar side valley.