Blast hits police checkpoint in Islamabad

A suicide blast near a police checkpoint in Islamabad killed at least eight soldiers, according to Pakistani authorities. The attack comes days after gunmen stormed a police academy in the Pakistani city of Lahore.


AFP - Two suicide attacks targeting Pakistani security forces killed at least 15 people Saturday, underscoring the enormity of the US challenge in fighting Islamist extremism in the Muslim nation.

A suicide bomber walked into a tented paramilitary police camp in the capital late Saturday, killing eight security forces in the second such attack in Islamabad in less than two weeks, officials said.

"It was 7:38-7:39pm (1438 GMT) when a suicide bomber entered from the back of the camp and exploded himself. This is Frontier Constabulary (FC) camp number seven," said Binia Amin, operations police chief in the capital.

The cloth had been stripped off one tent, leaving just the wooden bamboo frame still standing and only the rag of a grey shirt remained clinging to a makeshift clothes line after the explosion, said an AFP reporter.

President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned the attack while the government slammed a new wave of "terrorism" targeting the security forces.

"In a new wave of terrorism they are targeting our law enforcement agencies," interior ministry chief Rehman Malik told reporters after visiting the site of the explosion.

Police put up search lights as they collected evidence from the camp in the middle of trees and bushes, and encircled by barbed wire, in the darkness.

"There are eight dead," Amin told reporters. Asked if all eight belonged to the Frontier Constabulary he said: "Yes."

Four other people were wounded and 32 FC men were present in the camp at the time of the attack, the police official said.

The FC, part of Pakistan's paramilitary force, deploy outside diplomatic missions and protect VIP homes.

A local Islamabad administration official confirmed the casualties and said the assault appeared to have been carried out by a lone attacker, adding that two severed legs had been recovered at the site -- presumably those of the bomber.

"The death toll is eight and four injured," Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Asad Ullah Faiz told reporters.

The camp was in an upmarket residential district close to some of the capital's most prestigious addresses.

Gunfire rattled out across the Islamabad after the blast and officials said FC officers opened fire as the bomber detonated his explosives.

It was the second suicide attack in Islamabad in less than two weeks, following a March 23 attack outside a special police office that killed a guard and wounded three other people on a public holiday.

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.

Seven people, including two children, were killed Saturday when a suicide bomber blew up a car at a paramilitary checkpoint in Miranshah, the main town in the semi-autonomous North Waziristan tribal area, officials said.

"At least seven civilians, including two children, embraced martyrdom in a suicide attack. Thirty-nine others were injured, including six security forces," said a security official on condition of anonymity.

Saturday's bombings were the latest in a wave of attacks that have killed more than 1,700 people in the key 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 has unveiled a sweeping new strategy to defeat Islamist militants in south Asia, putting Pakistan at the heart of the fight against Al-Qaeda.

A suspected US missile strike killed 13 people, including militants, in the same semi-autonomous tribal area, a known hotbed of Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants, earlier on Saturday, security officials said.

Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, who has a five-million-dollar US bounty on his head, this week threatened to unleash further attacks to avenge US missile strikes.

Mehsud is Pakistan's most-wanted militant and heads the much-feared Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The former government in Islamabad accused him of masterminding the 2007 assassination of ex-premier Benazir Bhutto.

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