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Friday, 13 November 2009

Blast near ISI building kills eight in Peshawar

Suicide car bombs tore through security offices in Pakistan on Friday, killing at least 13 people and heavily damaging the Peshawar headquarters of the country's top intelligence agency.The deadly assaults on Pakistan's police and intelligence agents come with 30,000 troops pressing their most ambitious offensive to date against homegrown Taliban networks in their mountain strongholds on the Afghan border.
The three-storey Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) provincial headquarters in the northwestern city of Peshawar was heavily damaged, with huge clouds of smoke spewing into the sky and debris littering the ground, witnesses said.
The front and middle of the building collapsed, and five bodies lay on the road after the attack, said an AFP reporter in Peshawar, on the edge of Pakistan's lawless tribal belt which is infested with Al-Qaeda and Taliban.
"I was busy at work then suddenly I heard gunfire. I saw a vehicle moving towards the ISI building and then there was a huge blast. I was thrown to the ground," Azmat Ali, a 30-year-old mechanic told AFP in hospital.
"I don't remember anything else, but there was dust everywhere," he added after being treated for a broken shoulder.
The United States has put Pakistan on the frontline of its war against Al-Qaeda and has been increasingly disturbed by deteriorating security in the country where attacks and bombings have killed about 2,500 people in 28 months.
Pakistan's military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said it was a suicide car bombing outside the intelligence office building.
"Five official personnel have been martyred," Abbas told AFP.
Security officials put the overall death toll at 10 with more than 30 wounded.
"Ten people are dead... Up to 300 kilograms (661 pounds) of high explosives and mortars were packed into the car bomb," North West Frontier Province police chief Malik Naveed told AFP.
"Our engineers are checking the rubble to see if anyone is trapped," a senior military official told AFP.
A second suicide bomber rammed a car packed with explosives into a suburban police station in the garrison city of Bannu, southwest of Peshawar, killing three policemen and wounding 12 others, police said.
"The number of casualties is likely to rise because the injured are being pulled out from the rubble," police chief Iqbal Marwat told AFP from the garrison town.
Peshawar has become a target for major attacks by suspected Taliban militants.
The most devastating bomb attack in Pakistan in two years killed at least 118 people in a crowded Peshawar market on October 28 as militants put ordinary civilians in the crosshairs of their bloody campaign.
Pakistan's powerful and shadowy intelligence agencies have a history of supporting Islamist groups in a bid to counter rival India, but militant attacks have increasingly focused on domestic targets in the last two years.
Friday's bombing in Peshawar was the first major attack outside an ISI installation since May, when a suicide attack on a police building in the city of Lahore killed 24 people.
The government blames increasing attacks on Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which is the target of the ongoing offensive and which wants to avenge the killing of their leader Baitullah Mehsud by a US missile in August.
The latest attacks came after stiff Taliban resistance killed at least 17 Pakistani soldiers Thursday in the military's deadliest day since launching a major offensive in South Waziristan, security officials said.
Pakistan has pressed around 30,000 forces, backed by war planes and attack helicopters, into battle in a US-endorsed mission to wipe out the chief strongholds of Tehreek-e-Taliban in the tribal district of South Waziristan.
On Tuesday, a Taliban spokesman told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location that the militia had embarked on a guerrilla war from the mountains of South Waziristan and would attack cities as a matter of course.

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