Up to 20 dead in blasts near Pakistan ordnance plant

A04868969.jpgISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Two suicide bombers blew themselves up outside Pakistan’s main defense industry complex on Thursday killing up to 20 people, police said.

Pakistan is on the front line of the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism and al Qaeda-lined militants have launched a wave of attacks on the security forces over the past year, bombing military camps, patrols and transport.

The violence combined with political uncertainty has helped undermine investor confidence and send the country’s financial markets on a downward spiral.

“Fifteen to 20 people have been killed in two blasts,” said police officer Sardar Shahbaz at the scene outside the industrial complex in Wah, 30 km (20 miles) northwest of Islamabad.

“I can see several bodies,” he said.

Wah is home to Pakistan’s main defense industry complex where about 25,000 workers produce explosives, ordnance and weapons in about 15 factories.

One of the bombers blew himself up outside the complex’s main gate while the second detonated his explosives at almost the same time near another gate, Shahbaz said.

A television station reported one the bombers blew himself up among workers coming out of the complex.

Soldiers cordoned off the area and kept reporters back as ambulances arrived to take away casualties, a witness said.

Since July last year, Pakistan has suffered a wave of militant violence, particularly in the northwest, in which hundreds of people have been killed including many security force members.

Violence subsided when a coalition government that came to power after a February election opened talks with militants.

But militants stepped up attacks after their top leader, Baitullah Mehsud, suspended the talks in June.

This week’s resignation of President Pervez Musharraf, under threat of impeachment from the ruling coalition, has raised questions about the government’s commitment to tackle militant violence.

Although Musharraf’s support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism is deeply unpopular, the government has vowed to keep up efforts to fight the militants.

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