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Fears of Taliban takeover after Pakistan floods

ISLAMABAD - The floods ravaging Pakistan are generating fears that Taliban insurgents could regroup amid the chaos and destruction. The country's already anemic economy is expected to weaken, increasing the poverty that is a factor in the militancy wracking the country.

One of the hardest-hit regions is the northwest, the heartland of the Pakistan Taliban and other insurgent groups. Now, thousands of Pakistani soldiers have been tasked with flood relief and are likely to be crucial in rebuilding bridges and roads once the worst floods in Pakistan's history have receded.

The insurgents have kept up attacks during the two-week flooding crisis, which has left 1,500 people dead and affected nearly 14 million people.

A suicide bomber killed the head of a U.S.-backed paramilitary police force, while gunmen wounded the sister of one of the northwest's top political leaders. The Pakistani Taliban said the flooding was God's punishment to Pakistanis for accepting secular leaders and urged Pakistanis to boycott foreign aid.

The United Nations and the United States are urging the international community to step up assistance to Pakistan, which needs hundreds of millions in immediate emergency aid.

- AP

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