Pakistani officials are blaming Taliban militants for a bombing that
brought down a police station in the eastern city of Lahore, killing 30
people and wounding more than 200 others.
Officials said Wednesday the blast also severely damaged several nearby
buildings, including an office of the country's top intelligence
agency, whose agents are reported to be among the dead.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the deadly attack appears to be
retaliation for an ongoing military offensive against militants in the
country's northwest Swat Valley.
Officials say the militants drove up to the police station and started shooting before setting off the bomb.
Officials say four suspects have been arrested.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the bombing,
saying no cause can justify "such indiscriminate terrorist violence."
Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says it is suspending aid operations in the Swat Valley because the area has become too dangerous.
ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger said Wednesday in Geneva that the
agency will resume its humanitarian operations in Swat as soon as the
security situation for its workers improves.
The Pakistani army launched the offensive in Swat earlier this month
after militants violated a peace deal and advanced within 100
kilometers of the capital, Islamabad.
Pakistani army officials said Wednesday that forces had killed 12
militants within the past day and predicted Swat's main town of Mingora
will be cleared of militants in the next two to three days.
Fighting rages on in other parts of the area but officials say some
displaced Pakistanis are being told they can return to their homes.
The U.N. refugee agency's Kilian Kleinschmidl tells VOA (Urdu Service)
that about 200,000 people are still trapped by the fighting and that
without more supplies they will soon face a "humanitarian crisis."
The agency said Tuesday that fighting in the Swat Valley and
surrounding areas has caused one of the fastest displacements in recent
years with nearly 2.4 million people displaced this month, at a rate of
126,000 people a day.
Pakistan's army says about 1,100 militants and at least 63 soldiers
have been killed in the offensive in Swat Valley and surrounding areas.
However, government reports can not be independently verified.