ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – A suicide bomber attacked police headquarters in Islamabad, warplanes killed 20 Islamist fighters in the northwest, and children died in a roadside blast on Thursday as Pakistan’s war with militants intensified.
President Asif Ali Zardari, widower of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto who herself was killed in a suicide attack, said the government was not scared of militants and it was determined to rid society of terrorism.
Officials reported at least eight 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.
Police chief Asghar Raza Gardazi 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.
Zardari condemned the attack and said the government had the ability and resolve to confront the challenge posed by the militants.
“We are not afraid of terrorists. The government, the people and myself are all steadfast in our resolve to wipe out this cancer from the society,” he said while addressing a ceremony in Islamabad.
“The nations often face crises but strong nations confront these (crises) with courage and boldness.”
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.
In the neighboring region of Dir, lodged in the remote mountains bordering Afghanistan, a roadside bomb struck a police van carrying suspected criminals.
The remote-controlled bomb killed at least 11 people, including four children, four policemen and three prisoners, according to Sher Bahadur, a district administrator.
He said 10 people were wounded. Television news channels said many of them were children aboard a school bus.