March 12, 2010 1:18:32 pm
Suicide bombers targeting the Pakistani military killed at least 45 people in Lahore on Friday,officials said,in a challenge to government assertions that crackdowns have weakened Taliban insurgents.
Two suicide bombers attacked within the span of 15 to 20 seconds and they were on foot,provincial police chief Tariq Saleem Dogar told reporters.
The dead in the attack,the bloodiest this year,in a military neighbourhood of the city near the border with India included nine soldiers,military officials said. Almost 100 were wounded.
Pakistani authorities have said security crackdowns have weakened al Qaeda-linked Taliban militants fighting to topple the U.S.-backed government.
But the Taliban have renewed pressure on unpopular President Asif Ali Zardari,who faces calls from opponents to hand over his strongest powers to the prime minister.
If that does not happen,Pakistan could face new political turmoil while being pressed to defeat the Taliban.
There have been five blasts this week alone,including a car bomb suicide attack on a police intelligence building in Lahore on Monday that killed 13 people,and a shooting and bombing at a U.S.-based aid agency that killed 6 in the northwest.
Aside from facing a stubborn insurgency at home,Pakistan is also under heavy American pressure to open a new front and go after Afghan Taliban militants in border sanctuaries,a move that would tax its stretched military.
While Taliban bases have been smashed in government offensives in militant strongholds such as South Waziristan,fighters have a history of melting away to rugged areas which are hard for the military to penetrate.
The militant network is not substantially or reasonably damaged and they are still capable of striking,said analyst Khadim Hussain.
Soldiers cordoned off the site of Friday’s blasts and were not allowing anyone to approach a photographer said. Troops were deployed on the rooftops of houses. An army helicopter was flying over the area.
Rescue workers with stretchers rushed towards the blast site.
Police official Mohammad Shafiq told reporters the heads of both attackers had been found. Suicide bombers often strap explosives to their bodies and the blasts take off their heads.
Pakistani markets have mostly shrugged off violence,which has spread from militant strongholds in the northwest near the Afghan border to major cities. But Friday’s blast had an impact on trading,dealers said.
The market entered the negative zone only because of the bomb blasts in Lahore and it is likely that investors will be more cautious now,ahead of the weekend,due to security fears,said Sajid Bhanji,a dealer at brokers’ Arif Habib Ltd.
However,the main KSE index later recovered and was trading 1.4 percent higher.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi condemned the blasts in a statement,vowing terrorism will never be allowed to succeed in its nefarious designs.
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