Suicide bomber targeted Pak village to avenge death of six Taliban militants

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Islamabad, Dec 29 (ANI): The Pakistani mountain village of Shalbandi, which is less than 100 miles northwest of Islamabad, has been attacked by a suicide bomber belonging to the Taliban killing 30 people in order to avenge the death of six militants killed by the villagers four months ago.

A suicide car bomber set off an explosion at a school in Shalbandi that was serving as a polling place, as voters lined up to elect a representative to the National Assembly, The New York Times reported.

More than 30 people were killed and more than two dozen wounded, according to local political and security officials. Children and several policemen were among the dead.

The attack was the latest demonstration of the Taliban's encroachment eastward and deeper into Pakistan from the lawless tribal areas on the western border.

Shalbandi lies just south of the lush Swat Valley, a onetime ski resort known as the "Switzerland of Pakistan" that has been largely taken over by the Taliban despite large-scale army operations.

In the frenzied aftermath of the car bombing, survivors and witnesses offered conflicting accounts of the attack, said Iftikhar Hussain, Information Minister for the North-West Frontier Province, where Shalbandi is located.

A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack as retribution for the deaths of six fighters, according to a Pakistani news channel.

The Pakistani military claimed over the weekend that it had killed 34 militants in Swat, just north of Buner, the district that includes Shalbandi. But the choice of Shalbandi for the attack left little doubt which six deaths the Taliban had sought to avenge.

"They singled out this village because it had clearly resisted and had expelled the Taliban by force," said Afrasiab Khattak, head of the Awami National Party in the province.

Shalbandi had received constant threats after the posse hunted down the Taliban fighters. "Disrupting elections is a general strategy for these elements," The NYT quoted Khattak, as saying. (ANI)

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