ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – A suicide bomber attacked police headquarters in Islamabad and warplanes bombed Islamist fighters, killing at least 20, in a northwest valley on Thursday as Pakistan’s war with militants intensified.
Officials reported wounded but no fatalities in the attack on the police complex housing an anti-terrorist squad on the outskirts of the capital.
“I am at the site of the blast. I have seen several people wounded, eight or nine,” police official Khalid Mehmood told Reuters.
Interior Secretary Kamal Shah said a handful of people had been wounded, but there were no deaths reported so far.
Police chief Asghar Raza Garbazi said the attacker entered the police building carrying two baskets of sweets and presented one of them to a policeman.
“The moment he gave basket to the policeman, an explosion took place.” He said three policemen were wounded.
“There was no loss of life, with the Grace of God.”
The blast ripped the corner walls off a three-storey building in the complex.
The explosion occurred as Pakistan’s newly appointed intelligence chief briefed lawmakers on the internal security threat for a second day in a special, closed joint-session of parliament.
The bomber struck a target in a high security zone, though the city has been on high alert in the wake of a suicide truck bomb that killed 55 people and destroyed the Marriott hotel on September 20.
Few policemen were in the barracks in the headquarters at the time because they were on duty guarding the parliament.
There have been fears of more bomb attacks in reaction to an army offensive against Islamist militant strongholds in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.
A military official said jet fighters carried out two airstrikes on a hideout and a training facility used by fighters loyal to militant commander Mullah Fazlullah, who emerged at the head of a revolt in the northwest valley of Swat late last year.
“Twenty militants, including important commanders were killed but Fazlullah escaped. He was present there,” the official said.
The targets of the airstrikes were around 10 km northwest of Mingora, the main town in Swat.
President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani immediately issued a statement saying the attack “would not deter the government from fighting the scourge of terrorism.”