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Seven arrested over suicide bombing

Pakistani security agencies arrest seven men on suspicion of involvement in suicide bombing at a mosque.

world Updated: Dec 22, 2007 17:56 IST

Pakistani security agencies on Saturday arrested seven men on suspicion of involvement in the suicide bombing at a mosque that killed 54 people and injured over 100 but missed its apparent target, former Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao.

The seven men, most of them believed to be Afghans, were arrested early on Saturday morning from a madrassa in Turangzai in North West Frontier Province (NWFP), about four kilometres from Sherpao's village where the blast took place yesterday.

The former minister escaped unhurt in the blast during Eid prayers at the mosque, but his son and nephew were among those injured.

Local residents said four vehicles came to the seminary and police and intelligence officials arrested the seven men. They were taken away to an unknown location for interrogation, Dawn News channel reported.

Investigators, who scoured the site of the blast, found the legs of the suicide attacker though his head was not recovered. Pieces of his clothing and shoes were also found. The remains were sent for DNA testing to determine the attacker's identity.

Police said the bomb contained five to six kilograms of explosives and was packed with steel pellets, which caused most of the casualties.

The mosque was packed with nearly 1,000 people and the blast ripped through them, killing many instantly. For many families, the Eid festivities were replaced by grief and shock as hasty funeral prayers were arranged for the dead at the graveyard near the mosque.

Officials believe the blast could have been carried out by pro-Taliban militants from the nearby tribal areas bordering Afghanistan or from the Swat valley in NWFP, where the army is conducting a major operation against followers of radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah.

Yesterday's attack was the second bid in eight months on the life of Sherpao, a close aide of President Pervez Musharraf.
Sherpao had also played a key role in the drive against militants during his stint as Interior Minister, including the military operation against militants holed up in Islamabad's Lal Masjid in July.

Musharraf condemned the attack and said the perpetrators of such crimes would be "pursued relentlessly and eliminated".