Suicide car bombing in Pakistan's Swat valley

Player utilities

Listen to the story.

MARCO WERMAN: I'm Marco Werman, and this is The World. Pakistan matters. Much of Al Qaeda has apparently relocated there from Afghanistan, and insurgents seem to be gaining in strength in Pakistan, judging from the increasing number of attacks. Today, a suicide car bomber killed more than 40 people in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Military officials say most of the dead were civilians. The BBC's Aleem MaqBool is monitoring the story from the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

ALEEM MAQBOOL: What we've been told by security officials is that a car that was packed with explosives rammed into a Pakistani military convoy blew up. And this happened in a place called Al Puri, just to the eastern part of the Swat Valley.

MARCO WERMAN: And any claim of responsibility?

ALEEM MAQBOOL: Now as yet, but, I mean, the most likely culprit of course in the Swat Valley is the Taliban. The area was under Taliban control until a few months ago, when the Pakistani army launched a massive offensive in Swat to rest it back from Taliban control. But the army always said, it was gonna be very difficult to defend people against individuals who had no regard for their own life and were prepared to blow themselves up. Having said that, the army had been saying very recently that it was safe enough for people to return to their homes, and they encouraged everyone who had left the area, to go back there.

MARCO WERMAN: Right. I guess, I'd like to know what this says about the state of affairs in the Swat Valley, this latest violence.

ALEEM MAQBOOL: Well, you know, there have sporadic attacks over the last few weeks, but it's not just Swat, this is the fourth major attack in Pakistan in the last week. A week ago there was a suicide bombing in the UN offices, here in Islamabad. Then on Friday there was a massive suicide bombing in the city of Pacharu in marketplace there where around 50 civilians were killed including school children on their way home. Then over the weekend an extraordinary attack on the very heart of the military establishment here in Pakistan, their main headquarters. Militants managed to infiltrate the compound and take 40 or so hostages. And it only ended when commandos stormed that building, but a massive embarrassment for the army to be hit in its own headquarters.

MARCO WERMAN: So, with the government, with the Pakistani government claiming that they'll avenge these attacks imminently, one gets the impression that they're actually on the defensive in playing catch up. Is that the reality on the ground?

ALEEM MAQBOOL: Well, it's certainly seems that way, if you look at the events of the last week. The government says it does intend to go to this tribal area of South Waziristan, a place where the Taliban has its strong hold, but also where they've given safe haven to Al Qaeda, to attack foreign troops across the border in Afghanistan. Now, the public, they know if the army goes in there, then the reprecautions are gonna be felt in the towns and cities, that's where the militants will strike back. So, a lot of Pakistanis are nerved by the events of the last week, and worried about the potential outfall of any strikes against the Taliban in the trouble areas.

MARCO WERMAN: Mm, understandably so. The BBC's Aleem MaqBool in Islamabad. Thank you very much.

ALEEM MAQBOOL: You're welcome.