Suicide bomber in rickshaw kills 13

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A SUICIDE bomber in a motorised rickshaw killed 13 people when he blew himself up at a checkpoint in north-west Pakistan.

Another 52 people were injured in yesterday's blast in the town of Saidu Sharif in Swat Valley.

It was the second major attack in the country in less than 24 hours, raising fears of a new wave of violence by anti-government militants.

Suicide bombers killed 55 people in near-simultaneous blasts on Friday in the eastern city of Lahore.

No-one has claimed responsibility for either attack, though suspicion quickly fell on the network of Islamist insurgents who have been laying siege to the US-allied Islamabad government for years and who have stepped up attacks against security forces in recent days.

Major General Ashfaq Nadeemsaid the injured included two soldiers and two policemen.

"Such acts cannot demoralise us. I want to assure the people of Swat that we will continue fighting till the last Taleban are eliminated," he said.

Yesterday's explosion sparked panic as soldiers carried the victims through the narrow streets to get help.

Speaking from his hospital bed, resident Zia-ur-Rehman said he was travelling in another rickshaw when the blast shook the street and jolted his vehicle.

"I thought somebody picked me up and then threw me down," said the 24-year-old, who was covered with cuts and bruises. "Everybody was crying."

The Pakistani military launched a major offensive in Swat early last year after the collapse of peace talks with local Taleban, who at the time controlled much of the valley. The military took back control of the valley by mid-2009, but sporadic violence has continued.

In Lahore, meanwhile, funerals were being held yesterday for the dozens of people killed the day before.

A police spokesman said the death toll rose to 55 after 12 more people died overnight. About 100 people were wounded.