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Suicide blasts kill 70 at Pak arms factory

Two suicide bombers blew themselves up outside Pak’s main military arms factory, killing 70 and piling new pressure on the shaky coalition Govt to tackle militancy, reports Kamal Siddiqi.

world Updated: Aug 22, 2008 00:00 IST
Kamal Siddiqi & Agencies

Two suicide bombers blew themselves up outside Pakistan’s main military arms factory on Thursday, killing 70 people and piling new pressure on the shaky coalition government to tackle militancy.

The attackers struck almost simultaneously as a crowd of workers was streaming out of the huge factory complex in the northern town of Wah, near Islamabad.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, the second to rock Pakistan since Pervez Musharraf resigned as president on Monday, and warned of further blasts if army operations near the Afghan border are not stopped.

The first blast took place outside the factory gate as workers were leaving the premises. Minutes later another blast took place at another gate of the same factory. The Wah factory makes a number of arms and ammunition for the Pakistan army and also exports these to a number of countries.

The POF factory is part of industrial complex that largely supplies hardware to the Pakistani military. Following the attacks, the injured, feared to be over 200, were rushed to nearby hospitals as well as to Islamabad. About 40,000 people work at the industrial complex. “It’s a massive attack,” local police chief Nasir Durrani told AFP.

“Two men apparently blew themselves up outside the factory during a shift change. The bombers were on foot and they exploded themselves less than a minute apart.” The charred body of a bearded man, believed to be one of the bombers, lay on the road outside one of the gates, an AFP journalist saw. A severed leg, abandoned shoes and several mangled bicycles were scattered nearby.

Dozens of troops, police and military rescue workers in orange jackets milled around the scene.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani strongly condemned the attack and “directed the authorities to make efforts to expose the hidden hands behind the incident,” the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan news agency said.

A spokesman for Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, the umbrella group for the country's Taliban militants, said they were responsible. “Our bombers carried out today’s attack. It is in reaction to military operations in Swat and Bajaur,” spokesman Maulvi Omar told AFP by telephone, referring to two northwestern regions where troops are fighting militants.

Factory worker Riaz Hussain said most of the victims were labourers who were joining the afternoon shift. “I was working in the factory when I heard one blast and then another. They were huge,” he told AFP. “Security people then immediately surrounded the place and we were not allowed to go outside.”