| An anti-Musharraf protester in Karachi. (AP)
Islamabad, July 13 (AP): Thousands of troops rolled across northwest Pakistan today, a day after President Pervez Musharraf vowed to follow the storming of Islamabad’s Lal Masjid by eliminating extremism from “every corner” of the country.
Officials said thousands of troops were deploying today to various parts of North West Frontier Province, which borders Afghanistan and where militant groups are increasingly active.
A brigade of army troops were heading up the Swat Valley, 120 km northeast of Peshawar where a suicide car bomber yesterday killed three policeman at a checkpoint, said Mohammed Javed, the valley’s top administrator.
The attack — apparently the first ever suicide blast in the area — brought to 35 the number of people killed in bombings and shootings in the northwest since the Lal Masjid crisis began on July 3.
Television footage showed army trucks, some pulling heavy artillery pieces, lined up on a road in the area.
The valley is a stronghold of a radical cleric who has pressed for the imposition of Taliban-style rule similar to that which put the leaders of the Lal Masjid on a collision course with the government.
Maulana Fazlullah, who has close links to a militant group outlawed for sending followers to fight US troops in Afghanistan in 2001, reportedly told supporters to prepare for holy war in response to the violence in the capital.
Asif Iqbal Daudzai, spokesman for the provincial government, said Fazlullah had broken an agreement to stop using FM radio broadcasts for anti-government agitation.
Troops were also sent to Dera Ismail Khan, a town near the Waziristan border region, a Taliban stronghold. Police said they raided a house in Dera Ismail Khan today, arresting three suspected suicide bombers.