- The Washington Times - Monday, July 16, 2007

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Militants in northwestern Pakistan disavowed a peace pact with the government and conducted two days of suicide attacks and bombings that killed at least 70 persons, dramatically escalating the violence in the al Qaeda-infiltrated region.

The attacks yesterday and Saturday followed strident calls by extremists to avenge the government’s bloody storming of Islamabad’s Red Mosque and a declaration of jihad, or holy war, by at least one pro-Taliban cleric.

The termination of the peace treaty, the hopeful handiwork of President Pervez Musharraf, puts even greater pressure on the military leader as he struggles with both Islamic extremists and a gathering pro-democracy movement.

The U.S. national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, expressed concern yesterday about the threat from militants in Pakistan but supported Gen. Musharraf’s recent responses.

“He has a safe haven problem in an area of his country where Pakistan’s central government has really not been present for decades or even generations. It is a problem for him,” Mr. Hadley said on CNN’s “Late Edition.”

But in a separate interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Mr. Hadley acknowledged that the United States was dissatisfied with Gen. Musharraf’s policies.

“The action has at this point not been adequate, not effective,” Mr. Hadley said. “He’s doing more. We are urging him to do more, and we’re providing our full support to what he’s contemplating.”

Abdullah Farhad, a militant spokesman, said the 10-month-old cease-fire was being terminated in North Waziristan, a remote area on the Afghan border where the U.S. worries al Qaeda has regrouped.

He said Taliban leaders made the decision after the government failed to abide by their demand to withdraw troops from checkpoints by yesterday afternoon. He also accused authorities of staging attacks and failing to compensate those harmed.

“The peace agreement has ended,” Mr. Farhad told reporters in Peshawar, the capital of North West Frontier Province.

The government deployed thousands of troops to restive areas of the province in recent days in hopes of stemming a backlash to the storming of the radical Red Mosque.

But they failed to protect themselves yesterday against suicide attacks and a roadside bomb that together killed 44 persons and wounded more than 100.

Two suicide bombers and a roadside bomb struck a military convoy in Swat, a mountainous area northeast of Peshawar, killing 18 persons and wounding 47, a government official said.

The official said two explosive-laden vans rammed the convoy near the town of Matta. He said seven civilians also died.

TV footage showed about half a dozen roadside houses also destroyed by the blasts. People dug four corpses out of the rubble, among them a young girl.

In the day’s second attack, a suicide bomber targeted scores of people taking medical and written exams for recruitment to the police force in the city of Dera Ismail Khan. The blast killed 26 persons and wounded 35, said police officer Habibur Rahman.

On Saturday, at least 26 soldiers were killed and 54 wounded in a suicide car bombing north of Miran Shah, North Waziristan’s main town, the army said.

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