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7 killed in suicide attack near Pak air force base

Last updated on: October 23, 2009 15:44 IST

A cycle-borne suicide bomber on Friday struck a security check point-near a strategic military complex, reportedly linked to Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme, killing seven persons and leaving 13 wounded, in the latest in a string of brazen terror attacks.

The bomber, who was on a bicycle, approached the first check-point outside the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex within the cantonment in Kamra, 50 kms from Islamabad, and detonated his suicide jacket when security guards stopped him, said the police. Two security personnel and five civilians were killed in the explosion, Attock district police chief Fakhar Sultan told reporters.

Other officials said 13 people were injured, some of them seriously. The attack was in apparent retaliation to the Pakistan army's anti-Taliban offensive in South Waziristan. The Pakistan Aeronautical Complex at Kamra, in Punjab province, is the country's main air force maintenance and research facility. According to reports, combat jets equipped to carry nuclear warheads are also based there.

According to United States intelligence think-tank Stratfor, this was the second suicide bombing carried out against Kamra complex, and the strike is likely to raise renewed concerns about the safety of Pakistan's nuclear weapons. The same complex witnessed another suicide attack on December 10, 2007. The bomber's jacket was packed with nearly five kilograms of explosives and pellets, said the police.

Pakistan's civil and military leaders have repeatedly assured that the country's nuclear arsenal is safe and protected by an attack from militants by storing the warheads, detonators and missiles separately, in facilities patrolled by special forces.

TV footage showed several bicycles lying on the road at the site of the blast. Security forces cordoned off the area soon after the blast, which occurred at 7.15 am, as investigators collected the bomber's body parts and other evidence.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack though the finger of suspicion pointed at the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, which has carried out a wave of audacious attacks and suicide bombings over the past two weeks.

The attack in Kamra was the fourth terrorist assault in the past eight days. A suicide car bomber targeted a police station in Peshawar on October 16, killing 14 people. Seven persons were killed when two suicide bombers targeted the International Islamic University in Islamabad on Tuesday while a Brigadier and a soldier were shot dead by gunmen in the capital on Thursday.

Over the past fortnight, militants have also attacked the UN food agency's office in Islamabad and security facilities across the country, including the army's headquarters in Rawalpindi.

The Pakistan army launched a major ground offensive against TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud's network in South Waziristan approximately a week ago. Over 100 militants and 18 soldiers have died in fierce fighting so far.

Rezaul H Laskar In Islamabad
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