ISLAMABAD // A bomb blast killed around 40 worshippers attending Friday prayers at a mosque in a remote area of north-west Pakistan, according to a senior official in the area. "The death toll is 40. We have no idea as yet how many have been wounded," said Atif-ur-Rehman, the senior-most government administrator in the Upper Dir district of North West Frontier Province. Earlier on Friday, police arrested suicide bombers in Islamabad and nearby Rawalpindi, Pakistan's interior minister said, as US special envoy Richard Holbrooke consulted the country's leaders on what needs to be done once the army wipes out the Taliban in Swat valley.
Roadblocks have multiplied in recent days in both the capital and Rawalpindi, where the army is headquartered, over fears of attacks in retaliation against the Swat offensive. The military says more than 1,200 militants and 90 soldiers have been killed since the army swung into action in late April, while the militants have carried out bomb attacks in Lahore, and the northwestern cities of Peshawar and Dera Ismail Khan.
Western allies, worried the nuclear-armed country was sliding into chaos, have welcomed Pakistan's show of steel and the army action has received wide support from major political parties, the public and media. "The people of Swat have realised that the entire misery which we are facing today, it is because of the Taliban, because of the terrorists, who are not only enemies of the country but enemies of Islam," the interior minister Rehman Malik said.