Suicide bomber kills 41 near Pakistan’s Swat

ISLAMABAD, (Reuters) – A suicide bomber killed 41  people in an attack on a Pakistani military convoy passing  through a market yesterday as the Taliban claimed  responsibility for a weekend raid on the army’s headquarters.
  
Militant attacks have intensified over the past week as the  army prepares to launch a ground offensive on the al  Qaeda-linked fighters’ South Waziristan stronghold. 
 
A suicide bomber on foot leapt at a military vehicle in  Shangla district, near the Swat valley, security officials  said.
  
“The bomber hit one of three military vehicles that were  passing through the busiest market in the district,” top  Shangla police official, Khan Bahadur Khan, said by telephone. 
 
Provincial Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said  41 people had been killed, including 35 civilians and six  soldiers, and 45 people were wounded. 
 
The army has largely driven the militants out of Swat and  their leader, Baitullah Mehsud, was killed by a missile fired  by a U.S. drone aircraft in August. 
 
The militants are hitting back.
  
The army said Pakistani Taliban commander Wali-ur-Rehman  was behind Saturday’s attack on its headquarters in Rawalpindi,  near Islamabad. 

Commandos stormed an office building near the headquarters  and rescued 39 people taken hostage by gunmen after an attack  at a main gate of the headquarters.
  
Nine militants and three hostages were killed in the  violence in Rawalpindi while the number of soldiers killed rose  to 11, with the deaths of three wounded men, a military  official said.
  
The 10 attackers had wanted to take senior military  officers hostage to demand the release of a “long list” of  captured militants, said army spokesman Major General Athar  Abbas.
  
Abbas said a telephone conversation had been intercepted  between Reham and one of his subordinates.  

“It revealed that this attack was planned in the area of  South Waziristan,” Abbas told a news conference, adding Rehman  had told his subordinate to pray for the attackers’ success.
  
The leader of the attack, a former soldier who deserted in  2004 and joined a militant group based in Punjab province, was  the only attacker captured alive but wounded, Abbas said.

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