Pakistan violence spirals out of control

PAKISTAN’S deadly cycle of violent attacks and reprisals was spiralling out of control yesterday with at least 39 people killed in two separate bombings and three drone strikes on suspected militant compounds, all within hours of each other.

The nuclear-armed nation has been struggling to contain a fresh wave of militant attacks since US commandos raided a suburban Abbottabad compound, killing Osama bin Laden and several aides on May 2.

The latest violence was triggered by a US missile strike on a compound in South Waziristan on Friday night that is believed to have killed feared militant commander Ilyas Kashmiri, an outside contender to replace bin Laden as al-Qa’ida chief.

A spokesman for Kashmiri’s feared 313 Brigade, a wing of the militant Harakat-ul-Jihad al-Islami group, vowed at the weekend to avenge his commander’s death.

Six people were killed and several others wounded in the first bomb blast on Sunday at a bus stop in Matani.

Hours later, a teenager wired with 8kg of explosives detonated a bomb in a popular bakery in the army town of Nowshera, killing 18 people.

At least 45 other people were badly injured by a fire that broke out in the bakery when the blast caused gas cylinders to explode.

Nowshera police chief Abdullah Khan said the dead included three children. Bomb disposal experts said they had also retrieved the young bomber’s head from the site.

Then early yesterday, US drones fired missiles into two South Waziristan compounds, within kilometres of each other.

And late yesterday, a third drone strike hit South Waziristan. The three strikes killed a total of 18 militants.

The first missiles hit a compound in Shalam Raghzai, just south of where Kashmiri was reportedly killed on Friday night, killing at least seven militants including several suspected foreigners, a senior security official was quoted as saying.

A second slammed two missiles into a compound in the Wacha Dana area, 12km northwest of Wana, killing another eight suspected militants.

Security officials say they believe Kashmiri was in the region to rally militants in preparation for an expected ground offensive in North Waziristan by the Pakistani military in coming weeks.

Despite the 313-Brigade’s promise of revenge attacks, it was the Pakistani Taliban that claimed responsibility for the bakery bombing.

The 47-year-old was wanted in relation to the 2008 Mumbai attacks and a foiled plot last year targeting Britain, France, Germany and the US.

While US officials have not yet confirmed Kashmiri’s death, a Pakistani security official said it was “95 per cent confirmed” after cross-checks with various sources.

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