Bomb blasts in Pakistani city kill, wound dozens

Two bombs exploded in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi during the morning rush hour on Tuesday, killing 24 people and wounding 66, and at least one of the blasts was caused by a suicide attacker, officials said.

The blasts come at a time of deepening political uncertainty in Pakistan, with the army chief and President, General Pervez Musharraf, preparing to try to secure a new term and his opponents vowing to end his rule.

The government dismissed speculation the blasts could lead to the declaration of an emergency and postponement of presidential and parliamentary elections due in coming weeks and months.

One bomb blew up a bus carrying Ministry of Defence employees on their way to work, about a kilometre from the headquarters of the country’s army, said military spokesperson Major-General Waheed Arshad.

The second went off on a motorcycle parked in a market area of Rawalpindi, the sister city of Islamabad where Musharraf and many other top military officials live and where Islamabad’s international airport is located.

”Both are terrorist acts and all the dead and wounded are Pakistanis,” Arshad said.

Both bombs went off at around 7.20am local time (2.20am GMT).

Earlier, some officials said the workers on the bus were from an agency involved in atomic work, while others said they were from a security agency.

”The bus was totally packed. I saw 15 to 20 mutilated bodies,” said Tanveer Ahmed, a government employee waiting for another bus near the spot, which was quickly cordoned off by soldiers.

Pakistan has suffered a surge of militant violence since July, when commandos stormed a radical mosque in Islamabad and a peace pact broke down with militants in the North Waziristan region on the Afghan border.

While most of the violence has been in the north-west, there were two suicide bomb attacks in Islamabad in July.

Musharraf issued a statement condemning the blasts.

Suicide attacker

Deputy Information Minister Tariq Azim Khan said the blast on the bus was caused by a suicide bomber.

”The bomber somehow managed to get on to the bus and blew himself up,” Khan told Reuters. ”Anyone who thinks they can destablise Pakistan will be disappointed. There will be no derailment. Elections will be on time.”

The second blast was caused by a bomb placed on a parked motorcycle, police said. Several parked cars along the road and nearby shops were badly damaged.

Arshad said he could not give a breakdown of how many people were killed on the bus and how many were killed by the bomb on the motorcycle but other officials said more people were killed in the bus blast. – Reuters

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