Twin suicide blasts kill 23 people in Pakistan
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) — A pair of suicide bombers killed 22 people while targeting a top army officer in southwest Pakistan on Wednesday, missing him and killing his wife, several guards, a senior officer and two children, officials said.
Police said they were investigating whether the strike in the city of Quetta was revenge for the recent arrests there of three top al-Qaida suspects, an operation assisted by the CIA.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, but a spokesman for the group did not mention the arrests.
Instead, he said Brig. Khurram Shahzad, the deputy head of the region’s Frontier Corps, was targeted because of an incident several months ago that left five people dead at a checkpoint in the city.
In Wednesday’s blasts, the first attacker detonated his vehicle next to a group of Frontier Corps officers close to Shahzad’s house. Hurling grenades, the second attacker then stormed the house and blew himself up inside, police officer Naseer Ahmed Kurd said.
Police officer Hamid Shakil said at least 23 people were killed and more than 80 were injured, some critically.
An unidentified 5-year-old girl who security personnel had carried from the scene, bloodied, some of her clothes torn from her body, later died at a government hospital, according to doctor Mohammed Jafar Kakar.
The child was in a rickshaw, with her parents who also died in the attack, he said. Another child was also killed in the blast, along with a colonel in the corps.
Shakil said one of the suicide bombers was carrying an identity card showing him to be a 21-year-old Afghan refugee.
The bombing followed Monday’s disclosure of the arrests of the three al-Qaida suspects in Quetta. The Pakistan army statement announcing it stressed the level of CIA involvement — a possible sign of an upswing in cooperation between two uneasy anti-terror allies after the rancor surrounding the killing of Osama bin Laden in a unilateral U.S. operation.
American officials praised the arrest operation, saying the detention of the most senior militant — Younis al-Mauritani — was a significant achievement. The Frontier Corps took part.
“This attack was maybe in reaction to the recent arrests, but we are investigating,” police officer Shakil said of the Wednesday blasts.
Islamist militants are seeking to topple Pakistan’s Western-allied leaders.
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