ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) – Nine people were killed, including two children, when a suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden car into a police outpost Sunday in Pakistan’s Swat valley, the site of an ongoing military operation against Islamic militants loyal to a fugitive cleric.
The dead from the 12:35 p.m. (0735 GMT) attack also included the bomber, three civilians and three policemen at the Nimgole post near Imam Dheri, the headquarters of pro-Taliban cleric Maulana Fazlullah, said chief military spokesman Maj. Gen. Arshad Waheed.
Troops captured Fazlullah’s compound Thursday. “There’s nothing we could say about the perpetrators before investigating, but involvement by remnants of Fazlullah’s militants can’t be ruled out,” said Amjad Iqbal, who is in charge of the media center at the Swat military command center, adding several other people were injured.
It was the latest in a series of suicide attacks on security forces in the past year.
Waheed said militants were trying to strike back while on the run, but security forces were using all their resources to clear the area of them. “Suicide attacks are something that is hard to avoid, but security forces in Swat are in control of the region, and the overall situation in Swat is pretty well under control,” Waheed said.
Meanwhile, three bullet-riddled bodies were found in the Samgota area, some 35 kilometers (22 miles) northwest of Mingora, the main town in Swat. “Evidence found at the scene suggested the dead men were local militants apparently killed by the local residents of the area,” Iqbal said. “It is a good sign that local people have gotten active against the militants.”
The incidents occurred a day after the commander of military operations in Swat said insurgents in the area were on the run but remained dangerous.
Militants seized tracts of the Swat valley, a former tourist destination 160 kilometers (100 miles) from the capital, Islamabad, this summer, raising concern about the spread of Islamic militancy from along the Pakistan-Afghan border.
Followers of Fazlullah had fended off security forces sent to reinforce the area’s beleaguered police since July, but have been scattered by a major army operation launched last month.
Maj. Gen. Nasser Janjua said Saturday his 20,000-strong force has retaken all the towns seized by the militants, killing 290 of them and capturing 140, while driving a hard-core group of some 400-500 into the Piochar side valley.
In a radio address Saturday, Fazlullah claimed his men left their strongholds as a strategy and that it wasn’t a defeat, said Ghulam Muhammad Farooq, a local resident who heard the speech. He quoted Fazlullah as saying his men would continue to fight government forces and seek to impose sharia, Islamic law.