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At Least 32 Die in Blast in Pakistan
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Two bombs exploded in Pakistan on Thursday, one in the south and the other in the northwest, killing at least 32 people. Most of victims were police.

A wave of bomb attacks since a siege and assault on a militant mosque stronghold in Islamabad this month has swept northwestern Pakistan, killing close to 150 people.

But on Thursday, a bomb blast killed at least 25 in a market place in the southern town of Hub, on the border between Sindh and Baluchistan provinces, near the city of Karachi. Seven of the dead were policemen. More than 20 people were wounded, some of them seriously.

It was the first such attack in southern Pakistan during this recent wave. It was unclear whether it was related to the Islamist militant backlash against the storming of Islamabad's Red Mosque, or was linked to a long-running separatist movement in Baluchistan. Chinese workers have been targeted by both.

"I saw flames all around me after a big bang. It appeared as if cars were flying in the air," Mohammad Raheem, a 17-year-old laborer, who was injured in the blast, told Reuters in a hospital in Karachi.

"There were cries and screams all around. After that I don't known what happened. I just fainted."

President Pervez Musharraf said on Wednesday he had no intention of declaring a state of emergency to counter the growing insecurity, and gave assurances that elections due later this year would go ahead as planned.

Escorting Chinese

Abdullah Jan Afridi, the most senior officer at Hub Chowki police station, said the policemen had been escorting a team of Chinese engineers travelling to Karachi when the blast occurred, although the vehicle carrying the Chinese had just passed by.

"The blast took place shortly after Chinese passed the area. All seven policemen in the vehicle have been killed," he said.

Police were still investigating whether it was a remote-controlled bomb or a suicide attack.

In the far northwest, a car bomber blew himself up at a police training centre in the city of Hangu early on Thursday, killing at least seven people.

The government said 102 people had been killed in the storming of the mosque. Many of the victims came from the volatile northwest, most of them followers of cleric brothers advocating a militant brand of Islam reminiscent of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Young recruits

The bomber in Hangu tried to enter the police training centre just as young recruits were going in for training.

"The attacker tried to crash through the gate. He blew himself up as security guards at the gate tried to stop him," said Fakhr-e-Alam, top administration official of the city. "Six policemen and a passerby were killed."

A police official said 13 people had been wounded.

Hangu, which itself has a history of sectarian violence, is close to Pakistan's lawless tribal regions on the Afghan border, known as hotbeds of support for al Qaeda and Taliban militants.

A large number of al Qaeda fighters and their allies fled to Pakistan's tribal areas after US-led forces toppled the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001.

At the same time as militants are believed to be taking revenge for the government's mosque complex assault in the capital, pro-Taliban fighters have abandoned a 10-month-old peace pact in North Waziristan, raising fears of a resurgence in violence, mainly in the conservative northwest.

(China Daily via agencies July 19, 2007)

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