Five dead in suicide blast near Pakistan Army HQ

Five dead in suicide blast near Pakistan Army HQ


Rawalpindi: A suicide bomber blew himself up near President Pervez Musharraf’s army headquarters in the Pakistani garrison city of Rawalpindi on 30 October 2007, killing five people, officials said.

“It was a suicide attack. The area is sensitive - we don’t know what the exact target was. Five people were killed," railways minister Sheikh Rashid, a close aide to Musharraf, told AFP.

The blast happened within a kilometre of Musharraf’s military camp office in the city, and was also near the office of the chairman of Pakistan’s joint chief of staff, witnesses said.

Private television channels said the attack occurred as Musharraf was meeting with top government and provincial officials to discuss the security situation following a spate of recent attacks.

It was not immediately clear if that meeting was held in the Rawalpindi office.

But the interior ministry denied that the bomber meant to target the army.

“The suicide bomber blew himself up at a police post, killing five people. Eleven others were wounded including five policemen. It appears to be an attack targeting the police," ministry spokesman Javed Cheema told AFP.

The site was completely cordoned off by security personnel after the blast and journalists were stopped from reaching the area.

Police official Mohammad Tahir said that the bomber was on foot and was stopped by police at a checkpoint in the city. “He then detonated explosives strapped to his body," he said.

The victims included two policemen and a cyclist, he added.

Rashid said that there were reports that up to three possible suicide attackers had managed to enter Rawalpindi and neighbouring Islamabad in recent days.

Two suicide bombers blew themselves up in Rawalpindi, the heart of the country’s military establishment, on 4 September, killing 25 people. Most of those killed were in a bus taking intelligence officials to work.

The attack also comes less than two weeks after twin suicide attacks in the southern city of Karachi killed 139 people during a procession to welcome former premier Benazir Bhutto home from eight years in exile.

Pakistani officials have implicated Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network in the Karachi blasts, but Bhutto says she believes rogue security and government agents may also have been involved.

Pakistan has suffered a string of attacks since the raid of the pro-Taliban Red Mosque in Islamabad in July, piling pressure on Musharraf as he struggles with a political crisis ahead of general elections set for January next year.

Pakistani forces are maintaining a tense ceasefire with a Taliban-style cleric in the northwestern Swat Valley, once a thriving tourist area, after clashes at the weekend that left around 60 militants dead.

The troubles in Swat have reinforced fears of a spillover from Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, where thousands of Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants fled after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001.