Suicide blast in Pakistan's Swat kills 3
Sat, May 01, 2010

MINGORA, Pakistan - A suicide bomber cornered by security forces detonated his explosives in Pakistan's Swat Valley on Saturday, killing two people in violence likely to fuel fears of a Taliban comeback there.

The Pakistani military says a series of security offensives that began with one in Swat just over a year ago has hurt al Qaeda-linked homegrown Taliban insurgents.

Renewed violence in Swat over the last few weeks has raised concerns that militants are regrouping in the region.

The suicide bomber blew himself up near Sohrab Khan market in Swat's main town of Mingora, 130 km (80 miles) northwest of the capital Islamabad.

Security forces had earlier launched a search for militants in Mingora after reports that followers of a Taliban commander were planning bomb attacks.

"Our security forces managed to arrest a would-be bomber with a suicide jacket and were chasing another who took refuge in a house near a commercial center," a military spokesman said.

"He blew himself up after being surrounded by our forces. Three people including the suicide bomber were killed. Nine people were wounded, he said.

Residents, one of them with blood stains on his clothing, walked through the destruction left by the explosion in an alley.

A curfew was imposed in Mingora after the blast.

Scenic Swat Valley has witnessed a spate of killings of tribal elders in the past few weeks. Security officials said they appeared to be aimed at frightening the local leadership, which is supporting the army's offensive.

Swat authorities have been trying to improve economic conditions in Swat and improve the police force as part of a strategy to keep the Taliban from returning and stabilize the region.

People have expressed fears the Taliban will return in significant numbers if the army leaves the area and entrusts the police alone with security.

The military, Pakistan's most powerful institution, says offensives have destroyed Taliban bases, killed hundreds of fighters and driven many others from strongholds.

The security forces' successes have eased fears nuclear-armed Pakistan, a vital ally for the United States, was sliding into chaos, but unabated bombings are still a source of worry.

Taliban militants often melt away during security crackdowns and retain the ability to stage suicide bombings and bomb attacks on security forces and civilians across the country.

A roadside bomb attack on a police van wounded a senior police official and five others, including three passers-by in a town in the southwestern Baluchistan province on Saturday.

Separatist militants have waged a low-key insurgency for decades in Baluchistan on the Afghan border to demand more political and economic rights, but Taliban militants have also been active in the region.

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