Powerful bombs ripped through a bus and a market in the Pakistani garrison city of Rawalpindi Tuesday, killing at least 20 people including 15 government defence workers, officials said.
The devastating attacks happened minutes apart in sensitive military areas of the city, which is near the capital Islamabad and also the site of key US ally President Pervez Musharraf’s official army residence.
The first explosion hit a bus carrying defence workers to work in the city’s Qasim bazaar, police officer Mohammad Hamid told AFP. Fifteen of the employees were killed and about a dozen wounded, interior ministry officials said.
The white-coloured 40-seater bus was almost completely destroyed by the blast, which could be heard across the city. Rescue workers were cutting open the wreckage to pull out injured people and dead bodies.
“There was a huge bang then I saw the bus in a mangled heap. Body parts were scattered across the road and there was blood everywhere,” witness Mohammad Tahir said.
The second blast happened about three kilometres (two miles) away when a suspected motorcycle bomb exploded in the city’s R.A. bazaar, security officials told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Five people were killed but it was not known if they were civilians or otherwise, they said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for either bombing.
But a series of deadly attacks have rocked Pakistan since the military’s storming of the hardline Red Mosque in Islamabad in July. More than 100 people were killed in the siege and storming of the pro-Taliban mosque.
Military officials say 60 soldiers and 250 militants have been killed in violence in about six weeks.
A suicide bomber rammed his explosives-filled car into a paramilitary vehicle in the Pakistani tribal region of Bajaur on Saturday, killing three soldiers and two civilians, officials said.
The situation is also tense after the breakdown of a controversial peace deal between the government and Islamic pro-Taliban militants in Pakistan’s troubled tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.
The army is still trying to secure the safety of more than 150 soldiers whom militants say they abducted late last week in the tribal area of South Waziristan.
The military insists the troops were “trapped” amid a dispute between the rebels and local tribesmen, but the insurgents say they will not be freed until Pakistan pulls all soldiers from the area.
Pakistan sent troops into the tribal zone to track down Al-Qaeda and Taliban rebels who fled the fall of the hardline Taliban regime after the US-led military response to the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Musharraf, who is also fighting for his political life at home, has come under mounting pressure from Washington to crack down on Islamic extremism in the area.