Car bomb kills several in east Pakistan

A car bomb exploded in a neighbourhood full of government buildings in eastern Pakistan on Tuesday, killing 13 people and wounding dozens, officials said. An office of Pakistan’s state-run airline and a local gas station were severely damaged in the blast in Faisalabad city.

The explosion underscored the tenuous security situation in this United States-allied, nuclear-armed country where al-Qaeda and the Taliban have proliferated. Such attacks have often been chalked up to militant retaliation against army offensives against them.

Senior government official Tahir Hussain told the Associated Press that 13 people died in the blast.

The car bomb apparently triggered a gas cylinder to also explode at the fuel station, adding to the destruction, Faisalabad police chief Aftab Cheema said. Police offices as well as the Pakistan International Airlines building are nearby.

Pakistani TV showed piles of bricks, and chunks of twisted metal from cars strewn across the neighbourhood. Rescue workers struggled to pull victims out of the rubble. More than 50 people were wounded, police official Liaquat Ahmed said.

Most attacks carried out by Islamist militants in Pakistan occur in the northwest regions near the border with Afghanistan, and the primary victims tend to be police or other security forces.

Faisalabad, 260km south of Islamabad, is a key hub for Pakistan’s textile industry and it has rarely been targeted. However, it lies in Punjab province, where Islamist extremist groups are believed to be growing in strength.

The US has pushed Pakistan to crack down on Islamist extremist groups in its borders, saying they threaten not only Western troops engaged in the Afghan war effort but also the stability of Pakistan itself. — Sapa-AP

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