Friday, February 29, 2008

40 Killed in Funeral Bombing

A suicide bombing occurred today at a funeral for a police official in Swat Valley, killing at least 35 people and wounding 50, according to the latest newswire updates. According to Pakistan's The News, the blast struck just after the funeral prayers for the "martyred" police officer, Javed Iqbal, who was killed in a roadside bombing earlier on Friday. The News presented a slightly higher death toll than Western newswires, citing an official who confirmed the death of at least 40 men. CNN, in comparison, reported a much lower number of casualties - citing Interior Minister Javed Iqbal Cheema who said at least 11 people were killed in the attack. Differences in reported death tolls are common just after an attack occurs. CNN added, "The death toll was expected to rise overnight."

The AFP reported, "Nearly 1,000 people were attending the funeral in the town of Mingora in the Swat Valley, where troops are battling Islamic militants." Reuters provided further details surrounding the incident, noting, "The funeral was being held after dusk in accordance with Muslim custom, and [Deputy Superintendent Karamat] Shah said a power cut immediately after the blast added to confusion." Another senior security official told the AFP, "Nobody has claimed the responsibility for the attack, but we suspect the involvement of miscreants (militants) against whom the military operation was being carried out."

Musharraf sent thousands of Pakistani troops to the Swat Valley earlier this year [PBS Frontline noted it was actually in November 2007, see yesterday's post for more details] to quell the campaign of violence launched by Swat's "radio mullah." According to the Associated Press, "The army claims it has dispersed thousands of his militant followers, but attacks persist. Last week, a roadside bomb hit a wedding party, killing 12 people." Today's funeral blast of a slain police officer is reminiscent of similar attacks targeting funerals in Iraq, the most recent one in Baghdad on January 2, 2008 that killed 36 people. Funerals are often targeted by militants because of the large number of people present at the gatherings.

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