Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Twin suicide bombing in Pakistan kills 23 people

A pair of suicide bombers attacked the house of a top military officer in the southwestern city of Quetta on Wednesday, killing his wife and 22 other people, at least eight of them soldiers, authorities said.
Police said they were investigating whether the strike was in revenge for the recent arrests in Quetta of three top al-Qaida suspects, an operation that was assisted by the CIA.
The first attacker detonated his vehicle next to a group of Frontier Corp officers close to the residence of the force's deputy chief in the region. Hurling grenades, the second attacker than stormed the house and blew himself up inside it, police officer Naseer Ahmed Kurd said.
The bombing follows just days after Monday's disclosure of the arrests of the three al-Qaida suspects in the city. The Pakistan army statement announcing it had stressed the level of CIA involvement — a possible sign of an upswing in cooperation between two uneasy anti-terror allies after the rancor surrounding Osama bin Laden's killing.
American officials praised the operation, saying the detention of the most senior militant — Younis al-Mauritani — was a significant achievement.
The Frontier Corps took part in the operation, the army statement said .
"This attack was maybe in reaction to the recent arrests, but we are investigating," said police officer Hamid Shakil.
Shakil said at least 23 people were killed and more than 60 were injured in Wednesday's bombing.
He said one of the suicide bomber has been identified as Ahmed Gul, a 21-year-old Afghan refugee. Shakil said the identification was made on the basis of a refugee card found with the body parts at the blast site.
Islamist militants are seeking to topple Pakistan's Western-allied leaders and take over the country.
Allied to the insurgents fighting U.S. forces across the border in Afghanistan, they have attacked hundreds of government, police, army and civilian targets since 2007, when the violence began in earnest. Many thousands have been killed, and Pakistani authorities have struggled to counter the threat.
Pakistan didn't say when al-Mauritani and the two other al-Qaida operatives were arrested but a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, has said the arrest took place in the past two weeks.
The unusual announcement about the cooperation between the CIA and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency appeared aimed at reversing the widespread perception that ties had been badly damaged by bin Laden's death.
The Pakistanis accused the Americans of violating their sovereignty with the bin Laden raid, while Washington was angry the terror leader had been found in a house in a military garrison town in Pakistan.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Tuesday praised Pakistan for al-Mauritani's arrest.
"It's a tribute to the Pakistanis, who worked with us on this effort to be able to go after him," Panetta told reporters, adding that he assumes the U.S. will ask the Pakistani authorities for permission to interrogate the suspect.

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