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Bomber kills 13 near mosque

The bomb exploded as protesters clashed with police.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published July 28, 2007


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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - A suspected suicide bomber killed at least 13 people at a hotel Friday after hundreds of stone-throwing protesters clashed with police as the capital's Red Mosque reopened for the first time since a bloody army raid ousted pro-Taliban militants holed up there.

The blast, targeting police, was the latest in a string of militant revenge attacks and deepened the security crisis facing President Pervez Musharraf, a close U.S. ally.

The bombing comes on the back of almost daily suicide blasts in Pakistan's restive northwestern frontier, where Musharraf is also under U.S. pressure to crack down on al-Qaida. More than 300 people have died in violence that began with the siege of the Red Mosque at the start of July.

Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema said the government had received intelligence about a possible suicide bombing in the Aabpara market where the attack happened about 5:15 p.m. Friday.

Authorities had hoped to restore normalcy to the once-staid Pakistani capital by reopening the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, to the public more than two weeks after the commando raid dislodged militant supporters of its pro-Taliban clerics.

But religious students, angered by the government's move to assign a cleric from another mosque to lead Friday prayers, staged protests inside the Red Mosque's compound and occupied it for several hours.

They daubed red paint onto the walls and dome to restore its namesake color after a government restoration left it pale yellow. They also put up a black flag with two crossed swords - meant to symbolize jihad, or holy war. Street battles then broke out between stone-throwing protesters and police using tear gas.

Soon after came a thunderous blast in an open-air restaurant at the Muzaffar Hotel, in a crowded market district about a quarter-mile from the mosque.

Khalid Pervez, Islamabad's top administrator, said 13 people were killed, including seven police, and 71 were wounded, mostly bystanders.

[Last modified July 28, 2007, 01:47:40]


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