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Islamabad Links Suicide Bomber To Madrasah Attack

Pakistani President Musharraf (file photo) (epa) PESHAWAR, Pakistan; November 8, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Pakistani Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Sherpao says a suicide attack that killed at least 42 military recruits today in the Northwest Frontier Province was linked to last month's air strikes by Pakistani forces against a religious school where suspected terrorists were being trained.

Interior Minister Sherpao says today's attack against a military training center in Dargai appears to be revenge for the attack by Pakistan's army that killed 80 people at a madrasah in the nearby Bajaur tribal region on October 30.

'Definitely' Connected

"According to the information received from [Pakistan's] intelligence service, I can definitely say that these killings are connected with the incident in Bajaur," he said.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf says all of those killed in the attack on the madrasah were militants who were being trained to carry out terrorist attacks.

But some locals say those killed at the madrasah were innocent students, many of them in their teens.

Sherpao says today's suicide attacker arrived at the military training center by car as the recruits were gathered on the parade ground. Covered in a shawl, the bomber managed to walk onto the parade ground and detonate his explosives.

A Known Stronghold

"According to the reports we have received from Bajaur, these kinds of suicide attacks are exactly the kind of training that was going on [at the madrasah] in Bajaur," Sherpao said. "We were afraid that this kind of incident would happen. We could see the possibility of this kind of suicide attack. I think that if we didn't conduct the operation in Bajaur we would see many more attacks like this."

Dargai -- about 80 kilometers from the Bajaur madrasah -- is a known stronghold of a militant Islamist group, the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi. Pakistani security forces say they also suspect the group may be connected to today's attack. Members of the group have openly threatened retaliation against government troops in recent demonstrations against the madrasah attack.