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AFPAK JOURNAL: GlobalPost executive editor Charles Sennott begins today to write “AfPak Journal,” a chronicle of his reporting trip through Afghanistan and Pakistan.
ISLAMABAD — As the Pakistan International Airlines flight touched down here, I noticed that the in-flight screen featured the lush landscape of the Swat Valley with a promotional message: “Pakistan, heaven on earth.”
And definitely not these days with a spate of suicide bombings, one of which exploded outside a mosque where worshipers were lining up before the Friday prayer service in the northwest of the country.
The blast tore through the confidence Pakistan's military has been expressing about its all-out military offensive aimed at confronting a rising Taliban insurgency concentrated in the Swat Valley.
Pakistani television reports broadcast the aftermath of the bombing and reporters on the scene quoted military officials who put the death toll at 29 with at least 40 wounded.
The violence came just one day after the country's leaders urged President Barack Obama’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, who is visiting the region, to provide more aid to stave off Taliban-led militancy in the northwest of the country.
The Pakistani military has dramatically stepped up its fight against the Taliban in the last month. One of Pakistan’s leading English language newspapers, Dawn, carried a front-page headline today proclaiming, “Tide has Turned Against Terrorists.”
Chief of the Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said, “The tide in Swat has decisively turned and major population centers and roads leading to the valley have been largely cleared of organized resistance by the Taliban.”
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast at the Sunni Muslim mosque in the Haya Gai area of Upper Dir, a rugged and lawless province that straddles the Swat Valley.