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Twin blasts target Pakistani arms factory

Latest update : 2008-08-22

Two suicide bombers blew themselves up outside an arms factory near the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, killing at least 60 people and wounding several others, according to Pakistani police.

Two suicide bombers blew themselves up outside Pakistan's main army munitions factory Thursday, killing 64 workers in the deadliest attack on a military installation in the country's history.
  
In the second bombing to rock the feuding coalition government since president Pervez Musharraf resigned on Monday, the attackers struck a crowd of workers leaving the huge complex in Wah, near Islamabad, after their shift.
  
The Taliban movement claimed responsibility for the atrocity and threatened to carry out further suicide attacks if an army offensive against militants near the Afghan border is not stopped.
  
"It's a massive attack," local police chief Nasir Durrani told AFP. "Two men apparently blew themselves up outside the factory during a shift change. The bombers were on foot and they exploded themselves less than a minute apart."
  
"The death toll has gone up to 64," local police officer Shafiq Ahmed told AFP.
  
Earlier the factory in a statement put the toll at 59 dead and 67 wounded.
  
The charred body of a bearded man, believed to be one of the bombers, lay on the road outside one of the gates, an AFP journalist saw. A severed leg, abandoned shoes and several mangled bicycles were scattered nearby.
  
Dozens of troops, police and military rescue workers in orange jackets milled around the scene.
  
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani strongly condemned the attack and "directed the authorities to make efforts to expose the hidden hands behind the incident," the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan news agency said.
  
A spokesman for Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, the umbrella group for the country's Taliban Islamist militants, said they were responsible.
  
"Our bombers carried out today's attack. It is in reaction to military operations in Swat and Bajaur," spokesman Maulvi Omar told AFP by telephone, referring to two northwestern regions where troops are fighting militants.
  
"Similar attacks will be carried out in other cities of Pakistan including Lahore, Islamabad and Rawalpindi," he said.
  
The Pakistani Ordnance Factories at Wah is a cluster of about 20 industrial units producing artillery, tank and anti-aircraft ammunition for the Pakistani armed forces. It employs around 25,000 to 30,000 workers.
  
It adjoins the historic city of Taxila which is home to Buddhist ruins.
  
Factory worker Riaz Hussain said most of the victims were labourers who were joining the afternoon shift.
  
"I was working in the factory when I heard one blast and then another. They were huge," he told AFP. "Security people then immediately surrounded the place and we were not allowed to go outside."
  
Rescue worker Zaheer Shah said the bombers struck "as staff were leaving after finishing their day's duty and it was very crowded."
  
The blasts came two days after a suicide bomber attacked a hospital in the northwestern town of Dera Ismail Khan on Tuesday, killing 30 people.
  
Pakistani forces have been fighting fierce battles for nearly two weeks with Taliban militants in Bajaur, a tribal region bordering Afghanistan. The government says more than 500 militants and 30 soldiers have been killed.
  
Gilani's government is under massive international pressure to crack down on militants using safe havens in the rugged tribal belt to launch attacks on US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
  
But bombings like Thursday's attack here have added to public anger and accusations that Pakistan itself is suffering for its role in what many regard as "America's war".
  
The ruling coalition is also on the verge of collapse after key member and former premier Nawaz Sharif threatened to pull out if judges sacked by Musharraf last year are not restored by Friday.
  
US President George W. Bush called Gilani earlier Thursday and "Bush assured him that US support will continue for Pakistan, its government and democratic forces," Information Minister Sherry Rehman said.

Date created : 2008-08-21

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