Pakistan Violence
Sherin Zada  /  AP
A family member sits near an injured person of a suicide bombing in an ambulance outside Mingora in northwest Pakistan on Friday.
By Associated Press Writer
updated 3/1/2008 4:24:54 PM ET 2008-03-01T21:24:54

Police searched for clues Saturday after a suicide attack at a police officer's funeral killed more than 40 people in northwestern Pakistan, where troops are fighting pro-Taliban militants.

Another suicide bombing Saturday killed one person and wounded 19 others in the region, officials said.

More than 60 people were also hurt Friday night when a bomber blew himself up amid some 800 mourners who had gathered for the funeral of Javed Iqbal, a senior police officer who was killed in a roadside bombing earlier in the day. Among the dead was Iqbal's 16-year-old son, Ghazan.

Deputy Inspector-General of Police Syed Akhtar Ali Shah said although no one has claimed responsibility, police were confident of arresting those who orchestrated the attack in Mingora, about 105 miles from Peshawar in the Swat Valley.

District police chief Arshad Majid said 40 bodies were accounted for, but the toll was expected to rise after forensic officials reconstruct body parts.

Deadliest attack in Swat
The suicide bombing was the bloodiest attack in the Swat Valley since militant followers of a pro-Taliban cleric grabbed control of large parts of the scenic corner of Pakistan's restive northwest.

President Pervez Musharraf, a U.S. ally in the war on terror, sent thousands of troops to Swat in November but attacks have persisted.

On Saturday, a suicide bomber struck a vehicle carrying security forces in the northwestern tribal region of Bajur, killing one civilian and wounding 19 others, mostly security personnel, said Iqbal Khatak, a government official. The attacker was on foot.

All the victims were taken to a hospital where three were in critical condition, he said.

Friday's suicide attack was the most serious since the Feb. 18 parliamentary elections in which Musharraf's allied party was soundly defeated, plunging his political future into uncertainty.

'It was hell'
Shahbuddin, an assistant inspector of police, said the explosion occurred just as pallbearers — including Iqbal's teenage son — lifted the coffin to carry it toward the grave. Many police officers were at the funeral.

"Because it was dark, the suicide bomber was able to mingle among the people easily," said Shahbuddin, who uses only one name.

"As the coffin was lifted I moved toward the gate but suddenly a big explosion took place, which dashed me against the gate ... It was hell. Everybody was crying for help," Shahbuddin, who was slightly wounded, told The Associated Press.

Musharraf's political future
The pro-Taliban uprising in Swat was a shocking reflection of how Musharraf's government has lost control of parts of the conservative northwest.

Musharraf has faced calls to resign since his Muslim League-Q party was soundly defeated in the parliamentary elections. He has refused to step down.

The party of Benazir Bhutto — the opposition leader assassinated on Dec. 27 — was the biggest winner in the election, followed by the group led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Leaders of the two parties hope to form a coalition that would give them the two-thirds majority needed to impeach Musharraf or curtail his powers through constitutional amendments.

Musharraf came to power in a 1999 coup that ousted Sharif. Although Pakistanis initially welcomed Musharraf, he has become increasingly unpopular amid accusations he has trampled on democracy and the judiciary.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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