Suicide Bombing Kills Police Recruits in Pakistan

By Haq Nawaz Khan and Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, August 31, 2009

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Aug. 30 -- A suicide bomber detonated his explosives amid a gathering of police recruits in the heart of Pakistan's Swat Valley on Sunday, killing at least 15 and demonstrating the Taliban's power to attack despite the heavy military presence in the area.

A second explosion in Pakistan targeted a NATO convoy of fuel trucks near a border crossing with Afghanistan in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, causing no deaths but frustrating efforts to supply U.S. and other foreign troops.

The explosion in Swat took place in the main city of Mingora, where police were training recruits for a new force to help maintain security improvements brought about by a Pakistani military offensive in the valley this year. A police official on duty, Muhammad Ayaz, said the attacker sneaked into the police station disguised as a recruit and blew himself up near about 70 people.

The attack raised concerns among residents and officials about the Taliban's ongoing ability to target security forces, despite the military offensive that began in April. The military says it has been able to largely regain control of Swat, but many Taliban leaders remain free. The fighting in Swat and surrounding areas earlier this year drove about 2 million people from their homes, although many have returned.

One Mingora resident, Wazir Khan, said the blast caused panic across the city: Shopkeepers closed their businesses, people stayed inside and a curfew was imposed. The police in Swat were often outgunned by the Taliban over the past two years and regularly ceded authority to the fighters, forcing the military to step in. The Pakistani government plans to create a special police force, including retired soldiers, to bolster security.

The bombing in Baluchistan occurred Sunday evening at the Chaman border crossing. Police said about 20 vehicles, including oil tankers intended to supply NATO forces in Afghanistan, were set ablaze or otherwise damaged. The border had been closed for a few days because of a dispute between guards. Hundreds of trucks had been lined up waiting for the gates to open Monday when the blast occurred, officials said.

A suicide bombing at the Torkham border checkpoint in northern Pakistan on Thursday killed at least 18 guards.

Partlow reported from Kabul. Special correspondent Shaiq Hussain in Islamabad contributed to this report.

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