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Mourners targeted by suicide bomber

A SUICIDE bomber attacked the funeral of a Shiite Muslim leader in northwestern Pakistan yesterday, killing 28 people and triggering deadly rioting, officials said.

Rising sectarian attacks threaten to further destabilize Pakistan just as it faces intense international pressure to crack down on Islamist militants.

Meanwhile, a top United States official said Washington was worried that a five-day cease-fire in the restive Swat valley could "turn into a surrender" to Taliban insurgents.

Yesterday's explosion struck a 1,000-strong crowd streaming toward a graveyard in Dera Ismail Khan for the burial of Sher Zeman, a Shiite leader gunned down the day before.

The suicide attack, which also injured more than 60 people, left shoes and torn clothing littering a bloodstained street.

Gunfire broke out afterward and police said angry Shiites fired on officers rushing to the scene. Two Sunni Muslim residents were shot dead in the rioting.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but past attacks on Pakistan's Shiites have been carried out by extremists from the majority Sunni community.

In Swat, there has been a cease-fire since authorities offered to introduce Islamic law if militants laid down arms.

Pakistan sent hard-line cleric Sufi Mohammed to persuade the Swat Taliban to accept the pact.

But Richard Holbrooke, the new US envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said he had raised concerns about the deal during a phone call with Pakistan's president Asif Ali Zarda.

He said US President Barack Obama was worried "that this deal, which is portrayed in the press as a truce does not turn into a surrender."


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