AP : 2 Suicide Attacks Kill 35 in Pakistan

Sunday, November 25, 2007

2 Suicide Attacks Kill 35 in Pakistan

By MUNIR AHMAD | November 24, 2007

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — Suicide bombers hit a bus carrying intelligence agency employees and a checkpoint near the headquarters of the Pakistan army on Saturday, killing at least 35 people, officials said.

The two attackers struck in Rawalpindi, a garrison city just south of the capital, Islamabad. A senior intelligence official, who asked for anonymity because of the sensitivity of his work, said at least 35 people were killed.

In the first attack, an explosive-laden car rammed a bus carrying employees from the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, while the other bomber hit the checkpoint, said Mohammed Afzal, a local police official.

An intelligence agent at the scene said the destroyed bus was a 72-seater, but that more people were on board. The agent, who also requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of his work, said he believed casualty number would keep rising.

After the blast, troops and police quickly blocked off the area. They pushed people back and snatched cameras and mobile phones from journalists and bystanders. Agents fanned out across the area, picking up metal bits of what appeared to be the suicide bomber's car.

It was the second major attack against the ISI in recent months. On Sept. 4, a suicide attacker blew himself up after boarding a bus carrying ISI employees, while a roadside bomb went off near a commercial area in Rawalpindi minutes apart, killing at least 25 people.

The latest violence comes as Pakistan remains under a state of emergency, a move by President Gen. Pervez Musharraf that has prompted stiff criticism of the military ruler, including from his key Western ally, the United States.

Musharraf declared the state of emergency on Nov. 3, justifying it by citing the escalating danger posed by Islamic extremists, though his critics have noted many of his moves have been against political opponents rather than militants.

Islamic militants have launched dozens of suicide attacks this year. Most have taken place near the Afghan border, but several have taken place in the country's main cities, raising fears that violent extremism is spreading.

A bomber blew himself up in Rawalpindi on Oct. 30 at a checkpoint several hundred yards from the office of President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, killing seven people.

Two weeks earlier, a suicide attack on opposition leader Benazir Bhutto's homecoming parade killed more than 140 people in Pakistan's southern port city of Karachi.

Authorities cited the risk of further attacks when they barred Bhutto from holding a rally in Rawalpindi last month against Musharraf's imposition of emergency rule.

Tension between militant groups and the military are at a high because of an ongoing military operation to sweep the followers of a pro-Taliban cleric from the northern Swat valley.