Suicide Bomber Kills 12 Ahead of Rally

A suicide bomber blew himself up in the Pakistani capital Tuesday as hundreds gathered for a rally featuring the country's suspended chief justice, police said. At least 12 people were killed in the explosion, one of at least two deadly attacks.

Suicide Bomber Kills 12 Ahead of Rally
In Pakistan's lawless northwest, which like the capital is reeling from a burst , another suicide bomber killed three soldiers guarding a key road near the Afghan border and a bystander, clouding government efforts to resurrect a disputed peace pact in a stronghold of Taliban and al-Qaida.

The new violence comes amid a spate of bombings and suicide attacks in the northwest blamed on Islamic extremists enraged by President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's decision to storm Islamabad's Red Mosque and deploy troops in fighter strongholds near the Afghan border.

The storming of the mosque "shows that the government of Pakistan is prepared to move, to act, against a dangerous militancy that has come to infect various areas and parts of Pakistani society," said Richard Boucher, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for south and central Asian affairs.

In Islamabad, Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry was traveling to the rally and about three miles away when the attacker struck near the stage set up for him.

Khalid Pervez, a senior municipal official, said at least 12 people died and 40 others were wounded.

Three security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record, said it was a suicide attack and that the head of the attacker had been found.

Mohammed Hafiz, an official at a nearby hospital, said ambulances were bringing in the wounded. "We have declared an emergency," he said.

There was no immediate indication of who carried out the attack.

Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema said there was a "possibility" that the northwest attacks were a response to the Red Mosque raid.

"We would like to reiterate once again our unwavering resolve to eliminate the evils of terrorism and extremism in the supreme national interest," he told reporters.

Earlier Tuesday, explosions destroyed two unmanned security posts in Miran Shah itself, waking residents and sending smoke and dust billowing into the sky, another intelligence official said. No injuries were reported.

In another border area, gunman killed an Afghan refugee they accused of spying for the United States, said government official Mawaz Khan.

Villagers spotted the body of the man, whose throat had been slit, in a dry river bed near a village in the Bajur region, he said. A note left on the body warned that a similar fate awaited all informers.

A total of 108 people have died in suicide attacks and bombings across the northwest since the conflict at the Red Mosque began on July 3, including 75 soldiers and police.

The mosque siege, in which more than 100 people were killed, triggered calls for revenge attacks from extremist leaders including al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri.

However, the North Waziristan deal has been fraying for some months.

At the White House, President Bush's homeland security advisor, Fran Townsend, said Musharraf's agreement with tribal leaders had been a failure.

His strategy "hasn't worked for Pakistan. It hasn't worked for the United States," she said, stressing, though, that the administration continues to back Musharraf. 

Leaders accuse the government of violating the agreement by allowing a series of mysterious nighttime airstrikes on suspected gunman hide-outs near the frontier. It remains unclear whether the strikes were carried out by Pakistani forces or U.S. operatives based in Afghanistan.

Pakistan's military, meanwhile, acknowledges that elders have failed to live up to pledges to expel foreign militants and prevent cross-border raids, and there have been other deadly attacks on army convoys on the same road where Tuesday's attack occurred.

The surging violence has added to the sense of crisis in Pakistan, where Musharraf also faces threats to his life and calls for him to end eight years of military rule.

More than two dozen people have been detained in a probe into an apparent assassination attempt on Musharraf on July 6, a security official said.

Musharraf was flying from an air base south of Islamabad when shots rang out from a neighborhood directly under the flight path.

A security official said Tuesday that about two dozen people were detained for questioning after the incident.

The official, who spoke on condition of because he is not authorized to speak to the media, said investigators had gleaned "vital information" but didn't say whether anyone had been formally arrested.

Those interrogated include the owner of a house atop which two anti-aircraft guns and a machine gun were discovered.

Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 coup and became a key U.S. ally after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, has said he will ask lawmakers for another five-year term this fall.

However, his domestic standing has been damaged by a row over his suspension of the country's top judge.

Opposition parties have seized upon the March 9 removal of Chaudhry, the independent-minded chief justice, to accuse Musharraf of attempting to pre-empt legal challenges to him continuing as both president and chief of the army.

Chaudhry denies wrongdoing and has appealed to the Supreme Court, which is expected to make a ruling within days.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 18 Temmuz 2007, 00:18