WRAPUP 7-Blasts kill 20 in Pakistan’s Lahore, 170 hurt

* Blasts in Lahore

* Taliban leader charged in U.S.

* Heavy economic damage

(Updates Hakimullah being charged, updates death toll)

By Mubasher Bukhari

LAHORE, Pakistan, Sept 1 (BestGrowthStock) – Three bombs exploded at
a Shi’ite procession in the Pakistani city of Lahore on
Wednesday, killing at least 20 people and wounding over 170,
piling pressure on a government already overwhelmed by floods.

Police said two suicide bombers blew themselves up in a
crowd, after a lull in violence during the floods, the type of
attack that Pakistani Taliban militants have claimed in the
past.

Sajjad Bhutta, a senior Lahore official, told Reuters the
death toll had climbed to 20, with at least 170 wounded. Rescue
services said 25 were killed.

Separately, the U.S. Justice Department said prosecutors had
charged the leader of the al Qaeda-linked Pakistani Taliban,
Hakimullah Mehsud, for the plot that killed seven CIA employees
at an American base in Afghanistan last December.

Mehsud, believed to be in the tribal areas of Pakistan, was
accused of conspiracy to kill Americans overseas and conspiracy
to use a weapon of mass destruction, the Justice Department
said. The charges confirm Pakistan’s Taliban insurgents have
extended their reach overseas.

Soon after the Lahore blasts, a mob set fire to a police
station. People also beat policemen, witnesses said.

Pro-Taliban Sunni militants frequently attack Shi’ites as
part of a campaign to destabilise the U.S.-backed government.

The renewed violence came as millions of Pakistanis
continued to struggle for food and water more than a month after
the worst floods in the country’s history, deepening concerns
over the stability of the country.

The floods have ravaged Pakistan’s economy, Prime Minister
Yusuf Raza Gilani said, with massive job losses and soaring
inflation expected to hurt a nation whose stability is vital to
the U.S. war against militants in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“The floods have inflicted damage to the economy which may,
by some estimates, reach $43 billion, while affecting 30 percent
of all agricultural land,” Gilani said briefing the cabinet.

Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy, with cotton the
main cash crop. The sector is a major source of employment.

<^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

For more Pakistan stories, click

[nAFPAK] or http://link.reuters.com/kac58m
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^>

Facing the prospect of long-term economic pain, Pakistan
hopes the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will soften the
terms of an $11 billion loan. Pakistani and IMF officials are
meeting in Washington to work out the impact of the floods.

“This economic loss will translate into massive job losses
affecting incomes of thousands of families, which may have
serious social implications,” said Gilani, whose government was
heavily criticised for its slow response to the catastrophe.

Pakistan’s military has taken charge of relief efforts, but
Islamist charities, some linked to militant groups, have also
stepped in, raising concerns they may exploit public anger.

BLACKLIST

The United States on Wednesday formally added Mehsud’s
Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or Taliban Movement of Pakistan, to
its blacklist of foreign terrorist organisations subject to
travel and economic sanctions.

The TTP is the main Pakistani militant alliance which
operates from Pakistan’s northwest. It is suspected of being
behind most bomb and suicide attacks across Pakistan.

Before the floods struck a vast swath of the country, the
army said it had scored major gains against the Taliban. In
renewed air strikes in the northwest, Pakistani forces killed up
to 62 militants, their family members and other civilians with
no ties to the fighters, officials said on Wednesday.

Washington has repeatedly urged Pakistan to go after
militant sanctuaries in the northwest saying these have helped
boost the Afghan insurgency, now at its deadliest. Pakistan says
it is doing all it can to fight the militants.

Testing ties further, Pakistan’s army said on Wednesday it
scrapped talks with U.S. military officials after a military
delegation sent to Washington had to go through “unwarranted”
airport security checks.

British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said it could take
Pakistan years to recover from the floods with threats from
water-borne disease and opportunistic militants. “The danger
always is that you get groups who have an ulterior motive who
provide aid to try to curry favour,” he said after visiting an
aid camp.
(Additional reporting by Zeeshan Haider and Augustine Anthony
in Islamabad and Chris Allbritton and Rebecca Conway in Pabbi,
Svetlana Kovalyova in Milan and Andrew Quinn and Jeremy
Pelofsky,in Washington; Writing by Michael Georgy; editing by
Noah Barkin)
(For more Reuters coverage of Pakistan, see:
http://www.reuters.com/places/pakistan)

WRAPUP 7-Blasts kill 20 in Pakistan’s Lahore, 170 hurt