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Pakistan bombings raise fears of Taliban, al Qaeda resurgence

  • Story Highlights
  • End of truce with militants prompts worries about spread of violence
  • Tribal elders meeting with militants in hopes of salvaging cease-fire
  • Attacks have killed at least 79 people in recent days
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(CNN) -- A series of bombings in recent days in northwestern Pakistan is spreading fears in the region and the West.

Militants linked to the Taliban in the area near the Afghan border say a truce reached with the Pakistani government last September is off.

That deal has been blamed for an increase in attacks on U.S. troops over the border in Afghanistan, as Taliban fighters were able to prepare, train, and reconstitute weapons supplies without interference from the Pakistani government.

But Pakistani and U.S. intelligence officials worry about what happens if the cease-fire isn't salvaged. They fear the militants could spread their attacks to Pakistani cities, potentially developing a wider home base in Pakistan, a country that has nuclear weapons.

The Pakistani government has sent tribal elders to meet with militant leaders in the area in hopes of reviving the peace deal.

The Taliban are the former Afghan regime that sheltered al Qaeda until the U.S.-led war following the September 11, 2001, attacks. Now, U.S. intelligence officials say al Qaeda has established a "safe haven" in Waziristan, just over the border into Pakistan, and that Osama bin Laden is believed to be in the area.

Bombing attacks since late last week, targeting Pakistani military and police, have killed at least 79 people, authorities said. Video Watch CNN's Nic Robertson examine the spike in violence »

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Tensions in the region had been simmering for months, and recent events at Islamabad's Red Mosque triggered the fresh wave of violence.

Police in the region were at odds with students of the Red Mosque, who are calling for a Taliban-style rule in Pakistan.

On July 3, about 150 militant Islamic students attacked a police checkpoint close to the mosque.

The Pakistani military followed with a bloody siege on the mosque, killing dozens of people in a weeklong standoff.

An Interior Ministry official said 103 people died in the fighting, including some soldiers. Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said at least 75 militants and 10 Pakistani forces were killed. He said there were some women and children among the people the government considered militants.

Musharraf also said more than 3,000 people were freed during the standoff, which ended Tuesday.

Musharraf has cracked down on al Qaeda militants and arrested many, including in the Waziristan area before the truce was reached. But his critics say he has failed to prevent the terrorist group from growing inside his nation's borders.


Musharraf has faced repeated assassination attempts.

He told CNN last year he was trying to prevent the Taliban from becoming a "people's movement" in his country. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Nic Robertson, Syed Mohsin Naqvi and Kelli Arena contributed to this report.

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