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Pakistan sends troops to militant stronghold; Meanwhile, at least 15 held in connection with attempt on Benazir Bhutto

(AP) ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistan’s army has sent 2,500 paramilitary troops into a remote valley in the country’s northwest to combat followers of a militant cleric calling for Taliban-style rule, a military spokesman said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, a police official said security agencies investigating last week’s deadly suicide attack on former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto have held at least 15 people for questioning.

Some of those held were wounded in Thursday’s attack on Bhutto’s homecoming procession and were picked up from local hospitals. None are currently being treated as suspects, a police investigator told The Associated Press.

The investigator, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said around 15 or 16 people were being held. He would not say exactly where or share information about their identities.

The attack rocked Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, killing about 136 people, as Bhutto marked her return from an eight-year exile.

New death threat

Security in Karachi remains high as Bhutto revealed on Tuesday she had received a new death threat. She said her lawyer received a letter from an unidentified “friend of al-Qaida” threatening to slaughter her “like a goat.”

The authenticity of the letter could not be confirmed. Bhutto said the writer claimed to be the “head of the suicide bombers and a friend of al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden.”

Troops were deployed Tuesday and were setting up checkpoints across Swat, a mountain valley popular with tourists until violence flared there this summer, army spokesman Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad said.

Militants responded by detonating a remote-controlled bomb near a convoy heading into the valley late Tuesday. Arshad said four soldiers were lightly wounded and security forces had detained seven suspects.

The army said the deployment would curb the activities of Maulana Fazlullah, a militant leader who reportedly has used FM radio broadcasts to call for jihad, or holy war, against Pakistani authorities.

Fazlullah is the leader of Tehrik Nifaz-e-Sharia Mohammed, or Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Law, a group which sent thousands of volunteers to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban against the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

Checkpoints manned jointly by paramilitary Frontier Corps. troops and local police are to “ensure law and order, to assist the civil administration and ensure that Fazlullah and his band of criminals stop terrorizing innocent civilians,” Arshad said.

The army already sent regular troops into Swat, which lies about 30 miles north of the city of Peshawar, in July as part of a crackdown on militancy spreading across the region. The deployment prompted a string of deadly bombings and suicide attacks on security forces in the area.

The government of President Gen. Pervez Musharraf has struggled to combat Islamic extremism that has spread from the Afghan border across Pakistan’s northwest, where bin Laden is believed to be hiding.

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October 24, 2007 - Posted by | Blogroll, Homeland security, news, personal, politics, random, religion, Terrorism, Terrorism In The U.S., Terrorism News, Uncategorized, War-On-Terror

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