Police in Pakistan say a powerful bomb blast in a northwestern town has killed at least seven people while unknown gunmen have assassinated the leader of an outlawed extremist Sunni Muslim group, triggering violent protests in several southern cities.
The deadly bombing took place in the Pakistani town of Charsadda where police say children as well as women were among those killed. Senior police officer Sifwat Ghayyur told reporters that the attack targeted a passenger vehicle.
The police officer says the bomb was hidden in a box of medicine given to the driver of the vehicle to deliver in a nearby village. He says it was a time device and it went off when the driver stopped at a fuel station.
Taliban insurgents claimed responsibility for the bombing saying the victims belonged to a pro-government tribe that had raised an anti-Taliban armed militia.
Militant violence has significantly subsided in northwestern parts of the country in recent weeks following a major military offensive in the militant-dominated Swat valley.
The army says the valley has been largely secured but troops still encounter pockets of resistance.
The fighting between security forces and Taliban militants also dislocated more than two-million people but most of them have returned to their homes in and around Swat.
Monday's deadly blast and two suicide bombings over the weekend that killed a number of soldiers, however, have raised fears that Taliban militants are re-grouping in the region. The military has also confirmed killing of 13 militants in fresh clashes in the valley Monday.
The violence comes as the commander of U.S and NATO forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, met with Pakistani army chief General Ashfaq Kayani in the military headquarters in Rawalpindi on Monday but no details of the discussions have been released.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi while speaking at news conference in Islamabad Sunday night acknowledged that top militant commanders in Swat are still at large.
"We feel that we were successful in taking out the second and third tier leadership of Taliban in a very convincing manner. We have also got the top leadership on the run but we will chase them and we will go for them wherever they are," he said.
Meanwhile, police in southern Pakistan say that assassination of the leader of an outlawed Sunni militant group has outraged his supporters and there were violent demonstrations in at least three cities on Monday, including the country's largest city of Karachi.
The slain Islamic leader, Ali Sher Haider, led the banned Sunni militant group, Sippah-e-Sahaba, which is blamed for deadly attacks against Pakistan's minority Shiite Muslims. Pakistan imposed a ban on the group in 2002 and the United States has declared it as a terrorist organization.