Pakistani soldiers killed in ambush

1120.jpgAt least 16 Pakistani soldiers are reported to have been killed in an ambush against a military convoy near the Afghan border.

 

The army said the attack on Wednesday led to a gunbattle in the Lwara Mundi area of the North Waziristan tribal area, leaving some fighters killed.

“Sixteen soldiers were martyred and 13 others were injured. Some miscreants were also killed in the exchange of fire,” major general Waheed Arshad, the chief military spokesman, said.

 

The attack happened hours after a roadside bomb blast in North Waziristan injured six civilians and a soldier.

Tribal fighters in North Waziristan had vowed to attack security forces after abandoning a 10-month peace pact with the government at the weekend.

 

‘State of emergency’

 

Pakistan has been rocked by a wave of violence since government troops stormed the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, in the capital last week.

 

A suicide bomb killed 16 people and injured 86 others at a rally in support of the country’s chief justice on Tuesday.

 

The attacks prompted the government to consider imposing a state of emergency on Wednesday.  

 

“The government could take several steps and a state of emergency is a possibility,” Tariq Azeem, the deputy information minister, told private television late on Tuesday after the attack.

  

Officials said any such decision must be taken by the Pakistani cabinet, which could meet on Wednesday.

 

Analysts say declaring an emergency would delay elections expected later this year, boosting Musharraf’s aims to defy the constitution and remain in power as both president and army chief.

 

Police cordoned off the area in the heart of the capital, Islamabad, on Wednesday where the bombing took place the day before and combed the scene for evidence along with bomb experts.

 

‘Revenge attacks’

 

The bloodshed has heightened tensions with religious radicals calling for more revenge attacks on the government and troops moving into strongholds on the border with Afghanistan.

 

Tuesday’s bombing underlined the antagonism as various parties sought to place blame.

 

Supporters of Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, the former chief justice, have accused the government of being behind the mayhem.

 

An opposition party, believed to be considering joining a coalition government with Musharraf after year-end elections, said the attack was aimed at its loyalists.

 

In a sign of mourning and protest, the Pakistan Bar Council, the country’s largest lawyers’ association, has announced that its members would not engage in any court proceedings on Wednesday except for the chief justice’s case.

 

Chaudhry, whose fight against Musharraf’s effort to remove him has fueled opposition to the president extending his rule, was a few kilometres away when the attacker struck in the evening outside the Islamabad district court building.

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