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41 Killed in Blast Near Pakistan's Swat Valley

41 Killed in Blast Near Pakistan's Swat Valley

41 Killed in Blast Near Pakistan's Swat Valley

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Pakistani police say a suicide bombing near the country's troubled Swat Valley has killed 41 people. Monday's attack is Pakistan's fourth act of terrorism in eight days, killing a total of more than 100 people. It also comes as the Pakistani Taliban claims responsibility for Saturday's assault on the country's heavily guarded army headquarters in Rawalpindi.

Police say the attacker targeted a military convoy, setting off a huge blast in a crowded market square in Shangla district.

Earlier, the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for a 22-hour siege on the country's army headquarters that ended Sunday.

Army spokesman, Major General Athar Abbas, says security forces were able to intercept a phone conversation of Pakistani Taliban deputy leader, Wali-ur-Rehman.

Abbas says the call was evidence the group Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan had planned the assault from South Waziristan with the intention of taking hostages in order to free captured militants.

"This organization is responsible for more than 80 percent of all the attacks, suicide attacks and acts of terrorism, in our country," Abbas said. "There will be [an] operation in this area. But it is now a matter of military judgment (of) what is the appropriate time."

Last Monday, a suicide bomber struck a heavily guarded U.N. aid agency in Islamabad, killing five people. On Friday, a suspected militant exploded a car bomb in the middle of a busy market in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing more than 50 people.

The Pakistani military has been proposing an operation in South Waziristan for the past several months. Tens of thousands of civilians have fled the area.

The former security chief of Pakistan's tribal regions, Mahmood Shah, tells VOA the recent attacks, including Saturday's audacious assault, show the militants are united and may want to antagonize the international community.

"The message by [the] attack on the GHQ [Pakistan's army headquarters] is possibly that the army is protecting (the country's] nuclear assets, and therefore, if the GHQ can be attacked, how can [the army] protect the nuclear assets?" Shah asked.

But Pakistani authorities and top U.S. officials have dismissed suggestions that Pakistan's nuclear installations are threatened by the country's growing insurgency.