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Asia-pacific

Suicide attack kills two in Islamabad

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-06-06

A suicide bomber killed two officers at a police helpline centre in the Pakistani capital Islamabad on Saturday, hours after two pro-Taliban clerics were killed in a shootout in the northwest, officials said.

AFP - A suicide bomb blast at a police helpline centre in Pakistan's capital Islamabad killed two policemen Saturday, as a military offensive against the Taliban is followed by a spike in attacks.

The suicide bomber walked up to the building in a residential district, where many government officials live, targeting the same helpline service that was attacked in the eastern city of Lahore 10 days earlier.

"It was a suicide attack in which two people were killed and three wounded. The suicide bomber tried to enter the rescue office but he was intercepted by a policeman and he blew himself up," said senior police officer Bin Yameen.

"We have found a hand and two legs of the bomber. We have not been able to find his head so far," Yameen told reporters at the bomb site.

A security official and witnesses also told AFP that guards opened fire at the bomber before the explosion ripped through the city after nightfall.

"First one bullet was fired at him and then another bullet which probably triggered the explosion," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

It was the first such attack in Islamabad in more than two months, after a suicide bomber killed up to eight paramilitary police at a tented camp on April 4 just next to a major road and on the edge of an upmarket residential area.

A wave of bomb explosions across Pakistan have killed more than 1,900 people in the nuclear-armed US ally since government forces fought gunmen holed up in a radical Islamabad mosque in July 2007.

The violence underscores the enormity of the challenge facing the United States, which is pressing a sweeping new strategy to defeat Islamist militants in south Asia, putting Pakistan at the heart of the fight against Al-Qaeda.

Ambulances rushed to the scene of the bombing, where an AFP reporter saw a mound of debris, pieces of fallen masonry and broken window panes littering the police compound where the bomber was apparently intercepted.

The same police helpline service was targeted by a gun, grenade and van bomb in Lahore on May 27, killing at least 24 people and partially damaging a building used by Pakistan's top spy agency.

Saturday's bombing is the latest in a series of attacks on civilian and security targets interpreted as retaliation for Pakistan's blistering air and ground offensive launched in late April in the northwest of the country.

Since then more than a dozen bomb blasts have killed over 100 people, with Peshawar, the main city in the northwest, Pakistan's cultural capital Lahore and now Islamabad all hit.

On Friday, a suicide bomber killed 38 people in a mosque packed with worshippers in Upper Dir, which borders the northwest Swat district where the military has concentrated its offensive against the insurgents.

Security forces launched the drive in the northwest after the Taliban advanced to within 100 kilometres (60 miles) of Islamabad, in violation of a deal to put the region's three million people under sharia law in exchange for peace.

Much of the violence in Pakistan has been concentrated in the northwest, where the army has been fighting Taliban hardliners and Al-Qaeda extremists since the 2001 US-led invasion of neighbouring Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani stressed Saturday that the government was determined to root out militancy, but there was no immediate claim of responsibility for Saturday's blast.

Pakistani Taliban have claimed responsibility for recent attacks in Lahore and Islamabad. The group is led by Baitullah Mehsud, the country's most wanted militant with a five-million-dollar US bounty on his head.
 

Date created : 2009-06-06

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