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Suicide Blast at Pakistani Tribal Security Meeting Kills 35

Officials in northwest Pakistan say a suicide bomber killed at least 35 people and wounded scores more in an attack on a meeting of tribal elders. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from Islamabad that the blast came as the U.S. ambassador rejected a claim from Pakistan's interior minister implicating the United States in Pakistan's growing militancy.

Witnesses in Darra Adam Khel said a young man approached a group of tribal leaders at the outdoor meeting and blew himself up.

Bystanders struggled to transport more than 100 injured people from the rural area to hospitals in Peshawar and Kohat. Hospitals declared an emergency and appealed for blood donations.

The attack is the third suicide bombing in the last three days in northwestern Pakistan. A blast Friday killed more than 40 people at the funeral of a slain police commander in Swat. On Saturday, a bomber targeting security forces in Bajur killed one person and wounded several others.

Sunday's attack targeted a meeting of five local tribes who were reportedly discussing strategies to counter the growing influence of Pakistani Taliban groups in the region.

The militants, who are largely sympathetic to Afghan Taliban fighters, have launched a campaign across northwestern Pakistan to drive out government security forces and impose a crude version of strict Islamic law. Militants have attacked barbers and bombed music and video shops.

Pakistan's military has responded by sending in more than 10-thousand troops to the Swat valley, once considered a stronghold of the militants.

In an interview broadcast Sunday on a private Pakistani television network, the country's caretaker interior minister, Hamid Nawaz, blamed the growing militancy and suicide attacks on outside countries.

Nawaz said there is no doubt that Indian intelligence is involved. But he said there is a growing perception in Pakistan that perhaps Afghanistan and the United States are also involved in these activities.

The U.S. Embassy later released a statement describing his claims as "untrue." The statement said Ambassador Anne Patterson had telephoned Nawaz to express her "grave concern" over his remarks.