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Terrorism & Security

Pakistan on edge after two blasts

Government officials warn that foreign Taliban militants have infiltrated the country and could carry out more attacks.

By Huma Yusuf / March 24, 2009

PAKISTAN: An Army soldier secures the area near the site of a suicide bombing in Islamabad Monday. The bomber killed himself and one police officer.

Emilio Morenatti/AP

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Pakistani cities are on high alert after a suicide attack in the capital, Islamabad, left two people dead on Monday. Despite heightened security, a bomb blast in the southwestern city of Quetta injured three on Tuesday. The Interior Ministry has warned that there could be more terrorist attacks in coming days because the Pakistan-based Taliban have dispatched foreign militants to cause havoc in major cities throughout the country.

On Tuesday, three people were injured in the bomb blast at a hotel in Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan, reports Dawn, a leading Pakistani English-language daily.

On Monday night, a suicide bomber attacked a police station near Sitara Market, a crowded marketplace in central Islamabad, killing one police constable, reports The Washington Post.

"The suicide bomber came on foot around 9 p.m. near the gate of the police station, and when stopped by a guard, he blew himself up, also killing the policeman," said Rana Akbar Hayat, a senior police official.
He said the police station housed the intelligence-gathering branch of the Islamabad police....
"The bomber apparently wanted to target senior police officials," [Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik] said.

Four people were also injured in the attack. According to Al Jazeera, "At least two policemen were in a critical condition following Monday's attack on a station that houses police intelligence and bomb disposal units in Islamabad."

Dawn reports that the police constable who died in the attack helped prevent more casualties.

Witnesses said constable Faysal Jan who was manning the main gate of the building intercepted the attacker when he tried to forcibly enter the premises.
'Aroused by the bomber's evasive movements, Jan rushed towards him and took him into a tight embrace,' they said, adding that the ensuing explosion blew him up, but saved many lives because his body took the brunt of the blast....
An assistant sub-inspector of Special Branch, Munir, told Dawn that the blast took place at 8:35pm when some people were offering prayers in the mosque and he was coming out. He saw the constable running towards the bomber and asking him to stop for checking. However, the attacker blew himself up when the constable overpowered him.

News of the suicide attack sparked panic across the capital, reports the Daily Times, a major Pakistani English-language newspaper.

In panic, shopkeepers closed down their shops at Sitara Market and adjoining areas, bringing commercial activities to a halt. In moments, the blast became talk of the town, people discussing it at every corner. Conspiracy theories started to pop up....
Security forces came into action and increased patrol in every part of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Rangers sealed Sitara Market. Extra police force was deployed at all entry and [exit] points of both cities....
Traffic police [diverted] vehicles from Sitara Market and put them on alternative routes.
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