Image: Pakistani police help injured colleagues
Farooq Naeem  /  AFP - Getty Images
Pakistani police help injured colleagues after a suicide attack in Islamabad on Sunday near the Red Mosque. 
updated 7/6/2008 1:55:20 PM ET 2008-07-06T17:55:20

A suicide attacker detonated explosives near a police station in Pakistan's capital on Sunday, killing at least 15 people, mostly police officers, and wounding dozens more, officials said.

The evening blast occurred in a kiosk in front of the police station, which is also near Islamabad's Melody Market shopping area, said Naeem Iqbal, a police spokesman. Television footage showed wounded security forces being taken away and ambulances rushing to the area.

Just moments before the explosion, an Associated Press reporter passed by the scene and saw more than 20 security officials gathered nearby. After the blast, a traffic intersection in the area was splattered with blood. Body parts were scattered as far as 50 yards (meters) from the scene. Shattered glass also covered the area, which police cordoned off.

Red Mosque anniversary
The blast in the usually tranquil capital came as thousands of Islamists gathered about one-half mile away to mark the one-year anniversary of a deadly military crackdown on the radical, pro-Taliban Red Mosque. But it was not immediately clear if the events were linked, and a mosque official condemned the attack.

The explosion also came following recent threats of revenge from militants in Pakistan angered by a paramilitary operation against insurgents in the tribal northwest.

Naeem Iqbal, a police spokesman, said at least 15 people died, most apparently police.

Rana Akbar Hayat, a senior government official, said at least 10 of the dead were police officers, adding that the attack "was targeted to the forces by the suicider."

Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik said that based on witness accounts, the attacker was a man in his mid-30s who ran into the crowd of police. He said police have found the "upper part" of his body but did not give more specifics.

Malik said the nation has to think "who is destabilizing our country" and take action.

"We have to take them out from our ranks," he said. "We have to combat them."

Imtiaz Khan, the casualty medical officer at Federal Government Services Hospital, said at least 36 injured people were admitted there, nearly all security officials. He said two had died, while 12 were in critical condition.

Violence levels have fallen in Pakistan since last year, but attacks still occur as resentment continues in some corners against the country's partnership with the U.S. in the war on terror.

In June, a suicide car bomber killed at least six people near the Danish Embassy in Islamabad. A statement attributed to al-Qaida took responsibility for that blast, believed to have targeted Denmark over the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

A new government that came to power following February elections has sought to end militancy in Pakistan primarily through peace deals with extremists. That approach has earned criticism from U.S. officials, who say the deals will simply give time for militants to regroup and intensify attacks on foreign forces in neighboring Afghanistan.

In late June, as militants in Pakistan's northwest increasingly began threatening the key city of Peshawar, the government launched a paramilitary operation in Khyber tribal region to flush out the extremists.

That operation has now been halted while officials try to negotiate peace through tribal elders, but Pakistani Taliban leaders have vowed revenge for the government's show of force.

Siege of the mosque
Much of last year's violence came on the heels of the military crackdown on the Red Mosque.

The siege of the mosque came amid an increasingly violent anti-vice campaign led by the mosque's administrators in which roaming bands of students harassed music and video shops, sometimes kidnapping women accused of being prostitutes. Tensions boiled over into gunbattles with security forces trying to enforce government authority.

The government said 102 people, including 11 security personnel, were killed in the standoff that began July 3 last year.

The siege seriously undermined the government's reputation among ordinary Pakistanis, many of whom believe far more people died, including women and children.

A year later, the mosque siege still resonates among militant groups, which have referred to it in videos as a rallying cry.

Mohammed Amir Siddiq, a spokesman for the Red Mosque, denounced Sunday's suicide attack and said he was not aware if any of those at the anniversary gathering were wounded.

"This is a very tragic and condemnable incident," Siddiq told The Associated Press. He said the mosque held prayers for victims of the bombing after regular evening prayers.

Kamal Shah, the interior ministry secretary, denied that the bombing was a result of poor security for the Red Mosque gathering, during which many attendees called for Islamic law and demanded the hanging of President Pervez Musharraf.

Security arrangements made for the anniversary ceremony were "absolutely comprehensive," he said, noting that "nothing happened to the participants of the gathering."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Suicide bomber targets Pakistani police


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