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Pakistan Rocked by Suicide Bombing, At Least 41 Killed

October 12, 2009 at 12:00 AM EST
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A suicide car bombing in northwest Pakistan killed at least 41 people on Monday. Jonathan Rugman of ITN reports.
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GWEN IFILL: Pakistan was rocked today by another bombing that claimed mass casualties. It was the latest in a string of major attacks. Today’s bombing targeted a region near the Swat Valley.

It followed a weekend siege near the Pakistani capital and another suicide attack late last week near the border with Afghanistan.

We begin our lead story coverage with this report narrated by Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: The suicide bomber drove this car into a military convoy just as it was passing through a crowded market. Forty-one were killed and a further 45 wounded, most of them civilians.

The Pakistani army had supposedly cleared the Swat Valley of Taliban, but, in the past week, the militants have shown they’re seemingly nowhere where they cannot strike.

MAN (through translator): All of a sudden, the firing started. Some of us got hit. Others crawled into gutters nearby. Nobody knew what was happening.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: On Saturday, Pakistani commandos stormed their own army headquarters outside Islamabad after 10 gunmen took scores of hostages inside. The siege lasted 20 hours and left 16 dead, including hostages, soldiers and most of the gunmen.

Today, the army buried two officers, including a brigadier, with full military honors. But, given the army can’t even protect its own headquarters and that the police had predicted just such an attack, the army’s honor has been dealt a serious blow.

A Taliban spokesman said the attack here was to avenge the death of its commander, killed by an American missile. An army spokesman countered that the hostage-taking was for the Taliban to barter for the release of hundreds of its militants.

MAJOR GENERAL ATHAR ABBAS, spokesman, Pakistani military: The main demand was to take — they gave a long list of all those who have been apprehended, the terrorists who are in our custody, the custody of the government. They wanted their release.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: One of the gunmen, known as Aqeel, was captured alive. Police say he led the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team earlier this year.

But his capture marks a small victory, given the 49 killed by a suicide bomb close to the Afghan border last Friday and the five killed last Monday in an attack on the World Food Program in Islamabad.

An army offensive against the Taliban and its frontier hideouts is now expected before winter sets in.