In Pakistan, suicide blast kills 30 near military headquarters
The suicide attack in Rawalpindi, Pakistan came hours after Pakistan announced a $5 million total bounty for 21 top Talilban leaders wanted 'dead or alive.'
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The blast, which apparently targeted military personnel and civilians who had gathered at the bank to collect salaries and pensions, is the latest in a wave of suicide and hostage-taking attacks that have left nearly 200 dead in a month.
The attack shows again how terrorists' reach has extended into relatively safe areas of Pakistan's major cities, and underscores the scope of the security threat facing the Pakistani government. It came just hours after Pakistan announced a bounty on 21 top Taliban leaders, saying they were wanted "dead or alive."
Monday's blast followed last Wednesday's attack on a market in the northwest city of Peshawar that killed at least 118, and an attack just hours later that day on the United Nations office in the capital, Islamabad, that killed five.
The Pakistan daily Dawn reported that Monday's blast occurred on Mall Road, in the "high-security" area of Rawalpindi Cantt, which houses major hotels and key government and military facilities.
Monday's explosion left bodies on the ground outside the bank and in a nearby hotel parking lot, witness Zahid Dara said. The stricken area also lies close to the army's main headquarters.
'I was nearby and rushed toward the parking area,' Dara told a private television channel. 'There were many people lying on the ground with bleeding wounds, and a motorcycle was on fire with one man under it.'
The paper said that the suicide bomber rode a motorcycle to the scene, and that the blast killed military personnel and shattered the windows of nearby buildings.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for Monday's blast. But the New York Times said such attacks have escalated since the start of a Pakistani government offensive against the Taliban.
Military, government, and intelligence facilities have been targeted repeatedly in recent months, and attacks intensified after the start of an ongoing military operation against militants in the northwestern tribal region of South Waziristan, the Taliban stronghold.
Three weeks ago in Rawalpindi, nine gunmen wearing army uniforms broke into the military headquarters complex and held dozens of hostages for 20 hours. A raid by commandos ended the siege, but 16 people were killed, including eight of the attackers, the military said.
The surviving militant has been identified as Muhammad Aqeel, whom officials believe to be a member of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a militant group affiliated with Al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban.
"Such people are killers of humanity, and they deserve an exemplary punishment," the government announced in a series of advertisements, according to the BBC. "Anyone who captures these people dead or alive, or provides concrete information, the government will award them a cash reward."
Also Monday, the United Nations announced it would suspend some projects in northwest Pakistan due to security concerns, according to the Press Association – another indication of how bad the security situation in Pakistan has become.
UN spokeswoman Amina Kamaal said the organisation was still deciding which programmes will be suspended. ...
"We have had 11 of our colleagues killed because of the security situation," said Ms Kamaal. "All of the decisions are being made in light of that."