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Blast near Islamabad's Red Mosque kills dozens

Latest update : 2008-07-06

An explosion near the Red Mosque in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad killed at least 10 people, according to a Pakistani official. The attack came on the first anniversary of the deadly siege and storming of the Red Mosque.


Trouble was expected in Islamabad Sunday on the first anniversary of the siege and storming of the Red Mosque and trouble did happen – on a gruesome scale.


In a deadly suicide bombing attack in front of a police station near the Red Mosque Sunday, more than 10 people – most of them police officers – were killed and several others injured.


Reporting from Islamabad, FRANCE 24’s Graham Usher said the blast occurred toward the end of a demonstration marking the Red Mosque storming anniversary.


“It occurred at the end of the demonstration,” said Usher. “As crowds were leaving the place, a suicide bomber approached a nearby police station and appeared to deliberately target the police.”


News footage from the scene, near the Melody Market in the heart of Islamabad, showed the gruesome aftermath of the attack with dozens of dead and seriously wounded policemen in the blue uniform of the city police corps officers lying in pools of blood.


Shortly after the attack, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned the blast and ordered an inquiry. “Such incidents are against the teachings of Islam and do not serve any purpose,” said Gilani on Pakistani state media.



Attack despite tight security


The attack came despite tight security in the capital as thousands of Islamic students from across the country converged on Islamabad to mark the day, exactly a year ago, when Pakistani troops stormed the Red Mosque after a week-long standoff. More than 100 people were killed in clashes between Pakistani troops and Islamists holed up in the sprawling complex.


Roadside barbed wire barricades were erected across the city so that police could search people for arms.


“There was a tight security presence,” said Usher, reporting from the scene. “There were fears it could be attacked and that’s exactly what happened, police were attacked and it does indicate that the radical militants who took control of the Red Mosque last year are still around and are still fighting.”


The demonstrations itself were “fairly peaceful” said Usher although the rhetoric of the speeches by hard-line Islamist leaders were strident. Addressing thousands of angry Islamist sympathizers, speakers at the gathering called for President Pervez Musharraf to be publicly hanged for his role in the Red Mosque operation last year.


Musharraf’s crackdown on the Red Mosque triggered a wave of deadly attacks across Pakistan, in which hundreds were killed, including former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.


Following the February elections, the country’s newly elected government adopted a strategy of negotiating with Islamists in an attempt to end the violence.


Despite pressure from Washington, the Pakistani government signed a peace deal with Taliban militants based in the tribal zones near the Afghan border. Sunday’s attack is bound to raise questions about the feasibility of trying to negotiate with Taliban-linked militants.




Date created : 2008-07-06