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Taliban takes attacks blame

THE Taliban claimed responsibility yesterday for recent suicide attacks in Pakistan, including the assassination of a leading moderate cleric and the bombing of a Peshawar hotel frequented by foreign aid workers.

President Asif Ali Zardari vowed to continue fighting the Taliban "until the end," saying it was a fight for Pakistan's survival.

Taliban militants have unleashed a battery of suicide attacks since Pakistan launched a major offensive in the volatile Swat Valley in the country's northwest over a month ago. Friday's bombing of the cleric, Sarfraz Naeemi, at his seminary in the eastern city of Lahore triggered a wave of public anger and revulsion.

Thousands of people were expected to gather yesterday for his funeral in the country's cultural capital.

Police said the bombing was a targeted assassination. The cleric had recently condemned suicide attacks as un-Islamic and denounced the Taliban as murderers and "a stigma on Islam." He also threw his support behind the military operation in Swat.

Four others died and three were wounded in the attack. In its aftermath, hundreds of outraged seminary students shouted "Down with the Taliban!"

The seminary bombing was echoed within minutes at a mosque used by troops in Nowshera, killing at least four and wounding 100. The attacks took the count of suicide bombings to five in eight days, including a huge blast at the luxury Pearl Continental Hotel.


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