Two near-simultaneous suicide attacks rocked Pakistan's high-security garrison city of Rawalpindi on Saturday, killing over 25 people, most of them military personnel, and injuring many others.
Military Spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad said the blasts occurred almost simultaneously at 7.45 am local time one at a check post near the gate of the army General Headquarters and another targeting a bus carrying defence ministry personnel near a key ISI facility on the Faizabad-Murree Road.
Over 25 people were killed and many injured in the twin bombings, security sources were quoted as saying by the media. However, Arshad said that 15 people had died in the blasts, adding that both suicide bombers were in cars. In the attack near the General Headquarters, two soldiers manning the check post in Saddar area were injured when the suicide attacker blew himself up, Arshad said. Earlier reports had said one of the soldiers had died.
The second attack, which had the maximum casualties, occurred at a site opposite the Defence Ministry's Ojri Camp and near the gate of ISI's Hamza Camp facility. The suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden car into the bus carrying defence ministry personnel, Arshad said.
The blast triggered a devastating fire that completely destroyed the bus. Many of the dead were burnt alive while over a dozen people were injured, eye witnesses said.
The injured were rushed to various hospitals in Rawalpindi and doctors said the condition of several of them was critical, TV channels reported.
Security agencies immediately cordoned off the site of the blasts and prevented journalists from entering the area. Forensic investigators and bomb disposal experts scoured the sites for evidence.
Security was also beefed up across Rawalpindi and Islamabad, particularly around defence installations. No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks. However, a top militant spokesman in the Swat valley, Sirajuddin, had a few days ago warned that the ultras might launch suicide attacks in retaliation to a food blockade imposed by authorities in that area. Swat is located just 160 kms from Islamabad.
Arshad also dismissed speculation about security lapses, saying: "it was a suicide attack and it was foiled near the General Headquarters because of good security precautions which were being taken. Otherwise the casualties would have been much higher.
"It was the presence of mind of the security people who were manning those check posts that foiled this attempt and prevented large casualties."
The General Headquarters has the offices of several top army generals, including the principal staff officers, while the Ojri Camp is an installation of the Defence Ministry.
Today's blasts were the latest in a string of suicide attacks on Pakistani military installations and personnel. On November 1, at least 11 people were killed when a suicide attacker rammed his motorcycle into a bus carrying Pakistan Air Force personnel near the Sargodha airbase in Punjab.
On October 30, at least seven persons were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up near the official residence of Gen Tariq Majeed, the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee.
In April 1988, several hundred missiles and rockets went off following a blast at the Ojri Camp, killing scores of people in Rawalpindi and Islamabad. But Arshad said the facility was no longer an ammunition depot.