By Manal Ahmad
Associated Press Writer / July 6, 2008
(see The Free Library)
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – A suicide attacker detonated explosives near a police station in Pakistan’s capital on Sunday, killing at least 15 people and wounding dozens, officials said.
The blast occurred in a kiosk in front of the police station, said Naeem Iqbal, a police spokesman. Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik said that based on witness accounts, the attacker ran into the police.
“This a very tragic and highly condemnable,” he said.
Iqbal said at least 15 people died, most apparently police. The casualty medical officer at Federal Government Services Hospital, Imtiaz Khan, said at least 36 wounded people were admitted there, nearly all security officials, and that two had died while 12 were in critical condition.
Just moments before the explosion, an Associated Press reporter passed by the scene and saw more than 20 security forces gathered nearby. After the blast, a traffic intersection in the area was splatteredwith blood. Body parts were scattered as far as about 50 yards from the scene, and shattered glass also covered the area, which police cordoned off.
The blast came as thousands of Islamists were gathered not far away to mark the one-year anniversary of a deadly military crackdown on a radical mosque. It was not clear whether the events were linked.
Kamal Shah, the interior ministry secretary, denied that the bombing was a result of poor security for the gathering at the Red Mosque, during which many attendees called for Islamic law and demanded the hanging of President Pervez Musharraf.
Security arrangements made for the gathering at the mosque were “absolutely comprehensive,” he said, noting that “nothing happened to the participants of the gathering.”
The government said 102 people, including 11 security personnel, were killed in the mosque standoff that began last July. The siege seriously undermined the government’s reputation among ordinary Pakistanis, many of whom believe far more people died, including women and children.
A year later, the mosque siege still resonates among militant groups, which have referred to it in videos as a rallying cry. Mohammed Amir Siddiq, a spokesman for the Red Mosque, denounced the attack and said he was not aware whether any attendees of the conference were wounded.
“This is a very tragic and condemnable incident,” Siddiq told The Associated Press. He said prayers were held for victims of the bombing at the mosque after evening prayers.
The explosion also came following recent threats of revenge from militants in Pakistan angered by a paramilitary operation against insurgents in the tribal northwest.
A new government that came to power following February elections has sought to end militancy in the country primarily through peace deals with extremists.
That approach has earned criticism from U.S. officials, who say the deals will simply give time for militants to regroup and intensify attacks on foreign forces in neighboring Afghanistan.
About a week ago, as militants in the northwest increasingly began threatening the key city of Peshawar, the government launched a paramilitary operation in Khyber tribal region to flush out the extremists.
That operation has been halted while officials try to negotiate peace through tribal elders, but Pakistani Taliban leaders promised revenge for the government’s show of force.
Violence levels have fallen in Pakistan since last year, but attacks still occur.
In June, a suicide car bomber killed at least six people near the Danish Embassy in Islamabad. A statement attributed to al-Qaida took responsibility for that blast, which was believed to have targeted Denmark over the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.