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Pakistan on high alert

world Updated: Apr 30, 2007 15:00 IST

DPA
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Pakistani authorities have beefed up security around key officials and sites following a weekend assassination attempt on a cabinet member and reports that tribal militants have infiltrated cities to carry out bombings, said local media on Monday.
Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao survived a suicide attack on Saturday that killed at least 29 people, including the bomber who blew himself up in the middle of a crowd after a public rally in the northwestern town of Charsadda.

Alerting provincial governments about possible threats to VIPs, security officials in Pakistan declared 17 places "sensitive." More than half of them are in the central Punjab province, the hub of national politics, the media reported.

The chief minister of the southern Sindh province and at least four federal ministers are also among high-profile targets, it said.

The Punjab government also advised Pakistan's suspended top judge Iftikhar Chaudhry to fly to the provincial capital of Lahore instead of driving there to attend a convention of lawyers protesting allegations of misuse of authority against him.

Sherpao blamed the attack on an infamous militant leader from the tribal region of Waziristan.

The pro-Taliban commander, Baitullah Mehsud, in January resolved to carry out suicide bombings to avenge a government air strike that, according to the military, killed up to 30 foreign militants and their local sympathisers.

A string of bombings ensued across the country after he threatened to "cause pain to Pakistan" but Mehsud denied involvement.

Analysts described the attacks as fallout from the crackdown by government troops and also US forces on Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters present in the tribal area by the Afghan border.

Hundreds of foreign militants crossed into the mountainous region to flee the US-led war on terror triggered by Sep 11.