At least four people have been killed, including a prominent anti-Taliban cleric, in two separate but near simultaneous suicide bomb attacks in Pakistan, police said.
One blast took place inside the offices of the Jamia Naeemia religious school and mosque in the eastern city of Lahore soon after Friday prayers. Maulana Sarfraz Naeemi, the nationally recognised anti-Taliban cleric, was killed in the attack.
“Unfortunately, Maulana Sarfraz Naeemi has been martyred,” Lahore Police chief Pervez Rathore said.
The other blast, almost at the same time, occurred in the northwestern town of Nowshera when a suicide car-bomber set off explosives near a mosque, killing at least three people, police said.
The attacks came following Pakistan’s stepped up offensive in northwest after the US House of Representative approved tripling aid to Pakistan to about 1.5 billion a year for a term of next five year.
In more than a month’s offensive, Pakistani military has made progress in Swat valley eliminating more than 1000 Taliban militants, and in recent days, have started operations in many other parts of the region. The militants have responded with a series of bomb attacks.
According to police, three people were killed and more than 20 were injured in Nowshera’s bomb attack.
President Asif Ali Zardari and President Yusuf Raza Gilani condemned the blasts and ordered inquiry into the tragic incidents. They said the government would leave no stone unturned to eradicate these anti-state elements.
They expressed condolence with the families of deceased persons and directed the authorities to ensure proper treatment of the injured.
It should be noted taht rising Islamist violence has raised fears for Pakistan’s stability and for the safety of its nuclear arsenal but the offensive in Swat has reassured the United States about its commitment to the global campaign against militancy.
Pakistan is a vital security ally for the United States as it struggles to stabilise neighbouring Afghanistan and defeat al Qaeda.