THREE suicide bombings killed 54 people on Thursday as the wave of attacks buffeting the country after the Lal Masjid operation assumed nightmarish proportions, spreading from the north to the south.
The series of bomb attacks mostly targeting the security forces has claimed more than 285 lives this month — at least 180 since July 14 alone.
Thirty people were killed in Thursday’s deadliest strike at Hub, 50kms from Karachi, when a car bomber, apparently targeting a vehicle carrying Chinese workers engaged in mining activities, rammed into a police van escorting them. The Chinese were unhurt, but all seven policemen in the van and 23 bystanders were killed.
In Hangu, NWFP, a suicide car bomber detonated his explosives when guards prevented him from entering the police parade ground. The bomber killed six bystanders and one policeman. Scores of recruits were undergoing training at the time.
The third bombing — possibly the most ominous since it took place at a mosque inside a cantonment — killed 15 people in Kohat.
Thursday’s bloodshed followed President Gen Pervez Musharraf’s assertion the previous day that battle lines had been drawn between moderates and extremists. The president backed up the statement on Thursday with an exhortation to the nation to rise up against ‘terrorists out to destroy the country’.
The spate of bombings has also begun to weigh in on the capital market. The Karachi Stock Exchange’s main share index fell by 3.4 per cent on Thursday, extending a slide which began the previous day, with analysts saying the violence had scared off investors.
“We have to take the country forward, and with extremist activities all economic achievements made over the years will go to waste,” President Musharraf told a gathering of students in Islamabad.