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At least 20 dead in twin Pakistan blasts

Two bombs exploded in the Pakistani city of Lahore on Tuesday, one outside a government office, killing at least 20 people, police and officials said.

Well over 500 people have been killed in Pakistan this year in a campaign of suicide bombings, which intensified after troops stormed a radical mosque in Islamabad in July.

One of the bombs went off outside the city-centre Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), badly damaging the multi-storey office and nearby buildings, shortly after working hours began.

”We’re trying to evacuate the wounded trapped under the debris,” Tariq Pervez, the director general of the FIA, which focuses on illegal immigration and people smuggling, said.

The blasts came as opposition parties that won a February 18 election were forming a coalition government, raising hopes for political stability after months of turmoil over opposition to President Pervez Musharraf.

Rizwan Baseer, the head of the provincial government’s rescue agency, said 18 people had been killed in the FIA blast, in addition to the bombers.

Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz said the blast was caused by a car bomb and police said it was a suspected suicide attack.

”It was huge blast that took place near the reception of the building,” Nawaz said.

A hospital official said about 50 people were wounded.

‘Fight the scourge’

A second car bomb, also suspected to have been a suicide attack, went off in a mainly residential neighbourhood, about 10km away, police said.

City administrator Mian Ejaz said it killed two children.

Police said the car had two people inside and blew up after it was stopped at the gate of an advertising agency office.

Last week a twin-suicide bombing killed five people in an attack on a navy college in the eastern city.

Pakistan has been battling Islamist militancy since joining the United States-led campaign against terrorism after the September 11 2001 attacks on the US.

Musharraf condemned the blasts.

”Acts of terrorism cannot deter the government’s resolve to fight the scourge with full force,” the state news agency quoted him as saying.

Also on Tuesday, cricket officials said Australia had postponed their planned tour of Pakistan because of security fears. — Reuters

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