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Suicide Bombings Strike Pakistan as President Calls for Unity Against Extremism

Separate bomb blasts have killed more than 52 people in Pakistan, and the country is bracing for more violence. A wave of attacks in recent days has left at least 160 people dead, and has put Pakistan's President General Pervez Musharraf on the defensive. VOA Correspondent Benjamin Sand reports from Islamabad.

The first bomb ripped through a crowded marketplace Thursday morning in Hub, in the southern province of Baluchistan.

Later, a suicide bomber targeted a police training center in northern Pakistan, killing at least seven people.

Major General Saleem Nawaz, commander of security forces in the south, says the Baluchistan blast occurred as a convoy of Chinese engineers was passing through the area.

He says police and paramilitary forces were guarding the convoy, and no Chinese nationals were reported injured in the attack.

Chinese officials have pressed Pakistan to provide greater protection for its citizens working here, following a recent series of deadly attacks.

A violent though fairly limited insurgency has destabilized Baluchistan for several years.

Tribal militants there are seeking greater control over local resources, and have targeted Chinese contractors in the past.

Authorities say it is not clear if Thursday's attack was carried out by separatist rebels or Islamist extremists.

However, religious militants have vowed bloody revenge after government commandos stormed a radical, pro-Taleban mosque in Islamabad last week.

An eight-day siege and assault on the mosque left more than 100 people dead, and the action appears to have sparked a militant backlash. Officials say more than 140 people have been killed in attacks since the raid.

Thursday's bombing of the police training center in northern Pakistan was the sixth such attack in as many days.

The bomber rammed his car, reportedly full of explosives, into the compound's outer gate.

Taleban and al-Qaida militants are thought to be active in that area.

State Minister of Information Tariq Azim says President Pervez Musharraf has no intention of backing down in the face of the militant threat.

"He's as determined as ever. Suicide attacks will not deter him," said Azim. "He's as determined to fight terrorists as he always has been."

Political analysts say the attacks have sharply increased the pressure on Mr. Musharraf, who faces mounting opposition from both religious extremists and the country's pro-democracy moderates.

He has scheduled national elections later this year, but his critics fear he may postpone the vote and blame the surging violence.

On Wednesday, he insisted he would not declare a state of emergency or delay the election.