AFP - A suicide bomber blew himself up outside a special police office, killing a police guard and wounding three other people in Pakistan's capital during a public holiday Monday, officials said.
The bomber detonated his explosives at the gate to the police intelligence and bomb disposal unit building, where a guard tried to stop him from entering, near the Sitara market in the centre of Islamabad, officials said.
"The police official sacrificed his life to save others. Officially, we have one dead, three wounded. We are investigating further," Islamabad police chief Kalbe Abbas told reporters.
Officials confirmed it was a suicide attack.
"The suicide bomber was killed," interior ministry chief Rehman Malik told Pakistan's private Geo television condemning the "terrorist" attack.
Police collected up the parts of the suicide bomber, including teeth set in raw, bloodied flesh splattered yards away from the site of the blast, putting them in a shopping bag, said an AFP reporter.
"We saw three people wounded and one dead," a police officer, who gave his name only as Adnan, told AFP.
"We are normally involved in VIP movement. One squad is always here to provide security for VIPs in Islamabad," he added.
Pakistan, a key US ally, has been hit by around 200 suicide and bomb attacks that have killed more than 1,600 people since government forces fought radical gunmen holed up in a mosque in Islamabad in July 2007.
Monday's attack came on Pakistan Day, a public holiday that marks the 1940 resolution calling for an independent Muslim state on the sub-continent, seven years before British rule ended and Pakistan was created.
"We ordered a high alert in Islamabad from morning because an investiture ceremony had been scheduled at the president's house on the occasion of Pakistan Day," Malik said.
"He (the bomber) apparently wanted to target senior officers," he said.
It was not immediately clear if the death toll would rise.
Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira issued a statement condemning the suicide attack "in which some lives have been lost and many others injured."
The United States is expected this week to unveil a new strategy for fighting Islamic extremists in Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan.
Much of the violence in Pakistan has been concentrated in the northwest of the country, where the army has been fighting Taliban hardliners and Al-Qaeda extremists after the 2001 US-led invasion of neighbouring Afghanistan.
The last suicide bombing in the vicinity of the capital killed 14 people outside a restaurant in the twin city of Rawalpindi on March 16.
Monday's attack comes with Pakistan apparently emerging from a political crisis that pushed the nuclear-armed Muslim nation to the brink of chaos.
President Asif Ali Zardari reached out to his political opponents Monday in a written appeal for reconciliation following his reinstatement of the country's chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, sacked in 2007.
The deeply unpopular Zardari came under Western pressure to reinstate Chaudhry and defuse a standoff with opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, to avert the possibility of violent protests in the capital Islamabad.