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Taliban Claims Responsibility for  Pakistan Bombings


Two powerful suicide bomb blasts near the Pakistani capital have killed at least 64 people and wounded more than 70 others Thursday. Pakistani Taliban militants have claimed responsibility for the bombings on a main weapons factory just 30 kilometers northwest of Islamabad. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from the capital.

Pakistani police say that hundreds of workers at the country's main defense industry complex in the garrison city of Wah were leaving at the end of their shift when two suicide bombers struck.

Eyewitnesses say that the attackers blew themselves up at a main gate and at a crowded market inside the factory complex, instantly killing dozens of people. Doctors say that the death toll is likely to go up because many of those wounded are in critical condition.

A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban militants, Malvi Omar, has claimed responsibility for the bombings, which are among the deadliest attacks in the country in recent years.

He says the bombings were carried out in retaliation for the military operation against militants in the Bajaur tribal region on the Afghan border, a known stronghold of Taliban and al-Qaida fighters.

Omar warned of more such attacks, unless the government stops the operation in Bajaur, where officials say nearly 3,000 foreign and local militants are fighting the security forces.

Rehman Malik, who is in charge of Interior Affairs, told Parliament Pakistan would continue the operation to secure government control in the Bajaur region.

"We have two choices, either we hand over Pakistan to Taliban, or we fight back," said Malik.

The military began its operation in Bajaur two weeks ago, and Malik told the parliament that government forces have so far killed more than 560 militants. The clashes also have forced tens-of-thousands of residents to flee the area.

Taliban suicide bombers usually attack Pakistani security forces, but Thursday's attack targeted a key part of the army's weapons supply.

Army spokesman Major-General Athar Abbas tells VOA it is too early to determine if militants are adopting a new strategy.

"We will take a little more time to analyze the pattern of the attack and the change in that. But it is too early to say whether it is a deliberate change in tactic or it was an opportunity strike," said Abbas.

The ordinance factory that came under attack is a major supplier of ammunition and other weapons to the Pakistani military engaged in anti-terror operations in the tribal regions along the border with Afghanistan.

Thursday's attack follows a major suicide bombing in the northwest town of Dera Ismail Khan two days ago that killed at least 32 people. Most of the victims belonged to the minority Shiite Muslim community. Authorities, however, linked that attack to sectarian violence involving militants from the majority Sunni and minority Shiite Muslim sects.