Car blast outside ISI office in Lahore; over 40 killed | world | Hindustan Times
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Car blast outside ISI office in Lahore; over 40 killed

A suicide car bomber targeted buildings housing police and intelligence agency offices in eastern Pakistan on Wednesday, killing over 40 and wounding more than 100 in one of the deadliest such blasts in the country this year.See blast site | Listen to podcast audio | Podcast on ground situation in Lahore audio

world Updated: May 27, 2009 21:33 IST

A suicide car bomber targeted buildings housing police and intelligence agency offices in eastern Pakistan on Wednesday, killing over 30 and wounding more than 100 in one of the deadliest such blasts in the country this year, officials said.

The attack, which was followed by gunfire, was the third major strike in the city of Lahore in recent months, and it came amid worries of retaliation from Taliban militants facing a major Pakistani military offensive in the northwest.

Lahore is a major cultural metropolis near the Indian border, and assaults there have heightened fears that militancy in Pakistan is spreading well beyond the northwest region bordering Afghanistan.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s bombing.

Raja Riaz, a senior minister in the Punjab province government, told reporters that about 30 people died. Fayyaz Ranjha, a senior health official, told state-run Pakistan Television that the attack had wounded 116 people.

The explosion was so powerful it sheared the walls off buildings in a main business district. TV footage from the scene showed injured bystanders while emergency workers carried at least one person covered by a blanket to an ambulance.

Police official Mohammed Ashfaq said it was a suicide car bomber, and that the attack occurred outside the office of the emergency police service in Lahore. TV footage showed the nearby office of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency also was damaged.

Ashfaq said gunshots were heard immediately after the blast. An AP reporter saw dozens of troops entering the damaged building of the spy agency to supervise the rescue work, while gunshots were also heard from inside the building even one hour after the blast.

Earlier this year, a group of gunmen attacked Sri Lanka’s visiting cricket team in the heart of Lahore, killing six police officers and a driver and wounding several of the players.

A few weeks later, gunmen raided a police academy on the city’s outskirts, leaving at least 12 dead during an eight-hour standoff with security forces including army troops. Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud claimed responsibility for that attack.

The military is waging an offensive against Taliban militants in the northwest Swat Valley, a monthlong operation the army says has already left some 1,100 suspected militants dead. The offensive has spurred fears that the Taliban could stage revenge assaults.

President Asif Ali Zardari has ordered a probe into the attack which comes close on the heels of stepped up offensive against Taliban in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP).