- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 28, 2009

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — The Taliban claimed responsibility Thursday for a deadly bomb and gun attack on police and intelligence agency offices in eastern Pakistan, and explosions ripped through part of a market in the northern city of Peshawar.

At least three people were killed and two dozen were wounded in two blasts in the Qissa Khawani market, Dawn television reported. It showed video of people carrying a bloody body from one shop, mangled and smoking cars and walls and windows apparently blasted away.

The cause of the blasts was not immediately known. Peshawar is the main city in Pakistan’s northwest and is a short distance from the lawless tribal regions near the Afghan border where Taliban militants have long held sway.

The explosions Thursday came a day after a suicide attack on police and intelligence agency offices in the eastern city of Lahore killed about 30 people and wounded more than 300 others.

Hakimullah Mehsud, a deputy to Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, told The Associated Press in a telephone call that Wednesday’s attack in Lahore was in response to the military ongoing offense to end the militants’ control of the northeastern Swat Valley.

In the Lahore attack, gunmen fired and lobbed grenades at offices of the police and top intelligence agency, then detonated an explosive-laden van in a busy street in Pakistan’s second-largest city — a major cultural center and a hub for the armed services.

A little-known group calling itself the Taliban Movement in Punjab has also claimed responsibility for the attack. The claim could not be verified, and the militant group’s relationship to the Taliban was unclear.

The attack on Lahore, the capital of the Punjab province, was far from the restive northwestern Afghan border region where the Taliban have established strongholds in the Swat Valley.

The military launched a major offensive in the Swat region late last month after the Taliban seized control of a neighboring district in a bold bid to extend their influence. Washington and other Western allies see the campaign as a test of the Pakistani government’s resolve to take on the spread of militancy.

Associated Press writers Munir Ahmad in Islamabad, Ishtiaq Mahsud in Dera Ismail Kahn and Abdul Sattar Kakar in Quetta contributed to this report.

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