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World News

Bombs targeting police kill over 40 in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A suicide bomber blew himself up among mourners at a police funeral, killing at least 38 people in northwest Pakistan on Friday, intelligence officials said.

Tyres burn on a street during a protest by residents against the incident of an attack on the office of a foreign aid agency in Mansehra, 144 km (89 miles) from Islamabad February 29, 2008. REUTERS/Ibrar Tanoli

The attack in Swat district came days after the military said it had cleared most areas in the mountainous region of Islamist militants, who it had been battling there for months, aside from a few pockets of resistance.

“The blast occurred after people had offered prayers and pall bearers were carrying the coffin for a police salute,” said Deputy Superintendent Karamat Shah. He was among more than 500 mourners at the funeral for a senior colleague in Swat district.

The policeman being buried was one of three policemen killed earlier on Friday when their van struck a roadside bomb in another region of North West Frontier Province, where Taliban and al Qaeda fighters are active.

Mohammad Khan, the senior doctor at the hospital in Saidu Sharif in Swat, said 34 bodies had been received and more than 50 people were being treated for wounds after the attack.

But intelligence officials said the death toll was at least 38, and Shah said he saw some people carrying bodies of relatives home to prepare them for burial.

The funeral was being held after dusk in accordance with Muslim custom, and Shah said a power cut immediately after the blast added to confusion.

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The earlier roadside bomb occurred near Bannu, a town at the gateway to North Waziristan, a tribal region where al Qaeda cells have become entrenched.

“The device targeted the police van, killing three people and critically wounding two,” said Hamza Mehsud, chief of police in Bannu district.

A missile, believed to have been fired by a U.S. pilotless drone, struck a house in North Waziristan on Thursday, killing 13 suspected militants including some believed to be Arabs.

On Monday, the army’s top medical officer was killed in a suicide bomb attack in the city of Rawalpindi. The lieutenant-general was the most senior officer killed so far in the conflict with al Qaeda inspired Islamist militants.

Over 450 people have been killed in militant-related violence this year alone. A suicide bomb campaign targeting security forces intensified after the army stormed Islamabad’s Red Mosque last July to crush a militant student movement.

The escalating violence has raised concern about the stability of the nuclear-armed state, as it passes through a period of political transition with doubts over how long President Pervez Musharraf can hold onto power after his allies lost a parliamentary election on February 18.

(Additional reporting by Kamran Haider and Zeeshan Haider, writing by Simon Cameron-Moore, editing by Myra MacDonald)

(For a Reuters blog about Pakistan please see:

blogs.reuters.com/pakistan )

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