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20 killed in twin terror strikes in Pak's NWFP

By Rezaul H Laskar
Last updated on: November 13, 2009 16:24 IST
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Suicide bombers on Friday struck Pakistan's powerful Inter Services Intelligence, hitting its operational headquarters in the north-western city of Peshawar, and a nearby police station in Bannu, killing 20 people, including seven personnel of the spy agency. 

The strike on the spy agency and the police station left 85 people injured and came as 30,000 troops intensified their operation against the Taliban and foreign militants in lawless Waziristan.  

A suicide attacker rammed his explosives-laden truck into the gate of the ISI office, within the cantonment of Peshawar city, at 6.40 am, killing at least 12 people and injuring 60 others, the police said. The bomber's car was packed with nearly 200 kg of explosives, Inspector General of Police Malik Naveed Khan told reporters.  

Though the well-armed guards opened fire on the car to stop it, the attacker rammed his vehicle into the three-storey building, reducing it to rubble, the police said.  

The blast brought down the front and middle portion of the building. Its sound was so loud that it could be heard up to 20 km away. Bodies lay strewn on the road and police fired in the air to keep the onlookers away till the bodies were taken to hospital. 

Just an hour later, a second suicide bomber detonated his explosive-laden mini truck near the main police station at Bakakhel in Bannu district of NWFP, killing eight persons and injuring 25 others. 

Today's attack was the second strike on Pakistan's powerful and shadowy military spy agency in the last two months. The agency's office was earlier attacked in Lahore and 36 people were killed in the attack.  

The ISI office on Khyber Road, which was targeted, is located a short distance from an army stadium and the official residences of several dignitaries, including the governor and chief minister of the North West Frontier Province.  

Witnesses said the explosion was preceded by firing. Plumes of smoke and dust rose into the winter sky after the blast, which also smashed the windows of nearby buildings. In the second attack, two constables were among the dead while 20 security personnel were injured.  

The police station, located on a strategic road leading to Miranshah in North Waziristan, was destroyed and several persons were feared to be buried in the rubble, officials said. An indefinite curfew was imposed in the area. Schools in Peshawar were closed after the attack on the ISI office.  

The police sealed off Khyber Road, one of the city's main thoroughfares, as investigators scoured the site of the blast for clues. No group has claimed responsibility for today's attacks though officials blamed the Taliban, against whom the army is currently conducting an operation in South Waziristan.

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Rezaul H Laskar Islamabad
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