(AFP) – Mar 11, 2008
LAHORE, Pakistan (AFP) — Suicide attackers detonated two huge truck bombs in Pakistan Tuesday, killing 26 people, partly demolishing a police building and deepening a security crisis facing the new government.
Another 175 people were wounded in the attacks in the eastern city of Lahore, which came just minutes apart in the morning rush-hour and left rescue workers scrambling through rubble in a bid to find survivors.
The blasts, one targeting the Federal Investigation Agency headquarters and the other hitting an advertising firm, were the latest in a wave of Islamist-linked violence that has killed more than 600 people this year.
They also prompted the Australian cricket team to cancel an upcoming tour to Pakistan, citing security fears.
"I have never seen such a deadly suicide attack," Federal Investigation Agency chief Tariq Pervaz told reporters outside the badly damaged eight-storey headquarters in the heart of the city.
Security camera footage obtained by private Aaj television showed a pick-up truck ramming through the half-opened gate of the FIA office and knocking down a policeman before exploding.
There were warnings that the agency's offices would be targeted "but we were not expecting it in Lahore," Pervaz said, adding that up to 50 kilos (110 pounds) of explosives were used.
Twenty-two people including 12 agency employees were killed in the blast, he said. Two children and two adults died in the other attack on the advertising agency, which is a few kilometres away, he said.
"There was blood everywhere. I also saw mutilated limbs and body parts scattered around the reception area of the building," said lawyer Wali Mohammed Khan, who was on the second floor of the FIA building when the blast happened.
Pools of blood and pieces of human flesh lay outside the FIA office and the explosion also tore off the building's facade, exposing stairwells down which rescue workers could be seen carrying stretchers.
Dozens of children at two nearby schools run by Christian missionaries were wounded by flying glass, police said.
The FIA mainly deals with immigration and people-smuggling but the building also housed the offices of a US-trained counter terrorism unit.
"This is an Al-Qaeda-style bombing, like we see in North Africa and Iraq," an official from the unit told AFP.
The second attack, by a bomber in the same make of truck, hit an advertising agency in an upscale Lahore neighbourhood, the interior ministry said.
It was not immediately clear why the firm was targeted but the office is near the Lahore home of Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.
Zardari was quoted by Dawn television as saying the bombing was a "conspiracy" against the incoming government.
President Pervez Musharraf condemned the "savage act" and said the "acts of terrorism cannot deter government's resolve to fight the scourge with full force," state media reported.
The blasts came a week after two suicide bombers struck a naval college in Lahore, killing at least five people, in what was previously seen as a peaceful city.
"Terrorists are trying to put pressure on the government-in-making," interior ministry spokesman Brigadier Javed Cheema said.
Pakistan has been combating an Islamist insurgency led by Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants since Musharraf joined the US-led "war on terror" in 2001, but the violence has soared since the start of 2007.
The country has been rocked by six major blasts since the February 18 parliamentary polls, which were won by the opposition parties of the late Bhutto and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
Bhutto was killed in a suicide attack in the garrison city of Rawalpindi on December 27.
Musharraf on Tuesday summoned the new parliament to meet on March 17 -- finally setting up a showdown with his rivals that could potentially further destabilise the nuclear-armed nation.
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