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Pak deaths soar, Chinese targeted

Islamabad, July 19 (Reuters): Three suicide bomb attacks killed at least 57 people in Pakistan today as a militant backlash intensified following the army’s storming of a radical mosque in Islamabad.

A wave of bomb attacks has swept across Pakistan, killing more than 160, since the assault nine days ago on the Lal Masjid complex.

At least 30 people were killed today when a car bomber, apparently targeting a vehicle carrying Chinese workers involved in mining activities, rammed into a police van escorting them in the southern town of Hub.

The Chinese were unhurt but all seven policemen in the van and 23 bystanders were killed. Twenty-eight people were wounded.

Another seven people, including policemen, were killed by a car bomb in the far northwestern city of Hangu today.

The third attack killed at least 15, including two children, at a mosque in an army training centre at a military cantonment area of Kohat, according to officer Mohammad Riaz at the police control room in the North West Frontier Province town.

“The explosion occurred as people were about to offer evening prayers, it was apparently a suicide bombing,” he said. The attack in Hub, at the border of Baluchistan and Sindh provinces, was the biggest of the latest wave of violence and the first in southern Pakistan.

“I saw flames all around me after a big bang. It appeared as if cars were flying in the air,” Mohammad Raheem, 17, a labourer injured in the blast, said in a Karachi hospital. “There were cries and screams all around. After that I don’t know what happened. I just fainted.”

Chinese workers have been targeted in the same region by Baluch separatists in the past, but police suspect the latest attack was more to do with the storming of the mosque.

“We believe it is part of the recent attacks carried out by Islamist militants,” Tariq Masood Khosa, police chief of Baluchistan, said.

President Pervez Musharraf said on yesterday 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.

A cleric in the southern city voiced fears of civil war if Musharraf stepped up his fight on militants. “Musharraf has chosen a dangerous path,” said Mufti Muhammad Naeem of Karachi's largest Islamic school.

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