Extremist Violence on the Rise in Pakistan

Dispersed attacks recently by Taliban militants and sympathizers throughout Pakistan indicate the extremist religious movement is growing bolder and more aggressive in that country.

On Friday, militants in northeastern Pakistan blew up two video shops and burned down the office of a local cable television operator. Residents of Kohat, which borders Pakistan's troubled tribal belt, said the attacks followed warnings the Taliban would strike "un-Islamic" businesses in the area.

In Islamabad, pro-Taliban seminary students launched an anti-vice campaign from a heavily fortified mosque located just a mile from the U.S. embassy and Pakistan's parliament. They kidnapped three women they accused of running a brothel and ordered music shops in an adjacent marketplace to close down or face the consequences.

Two policemen who entered the fundamentalist religious school were also briefly taken hostage on Wednesday when they tried to rescue the women.

The women were released a day later, after they pledged to refrain from "immoral behavior."

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Aunti Shamin, the alleged brothel owner, later held a press conference, saying the militant students threatened to kill her family if she did not confess to and repent for a life of prostitution.

Meanwhile on Monday in Tank, another town at the edge of the tribal belt, militants kidnapped a school principal and killed one policeman in a gun battle that raged for hours. Police earlier had slain two militants accused of launching suicide attacks.

For years, President Pervez Musharraf has said he was doing his best to stamp out extremism in Pakistan's restive tribal belt. The recent rash of violence has many Pakistanis worried it is spreading across the country.

The episodes in Tank and Islamabad "should serve as a wake up call to the government," wrote the News newspaper in an editorial Friday. "They better stand up and speak against the extremists, or risk their very existence and way of life coming under permanent threat."

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