Suicide bombers target Pakistani general; 23 killed

A pair of suicide bombings targeting a top army officer killed at least 23 people early Wednesday in the southwestern city of Quetta, police said, two days after Pakistan announced the arrests of three senior al-Qaeda leaders in the same city.

The blasts struck the residence of Brig. Gen. Farrukh Shahzad, deputy head of the paramilitary Frontier Corps in Quetta, injuring him and killing his wife. Another senior army officer, identified as a colonel, was killed, police said.

The Pakistani Taliban quickly asserted responsibility for the blasts, and police said they were investigating the motive.

A spokesman for the militant organization told some news agencies that the attack was carried out to avenge the recent arrests, which were conducted by Pakistan’s top spy agency and the Frontier Corps. But the Associated Press quoted a Taliban spokesman as saying that the bombings were meant as payback for an incident in which Frontier Corps troops killed five people at a checkpoint in May.

On Wednesday, the first bomber rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into a wall outside Shahzad’s house. Pakistani television reports showed the wall knocked down and vehicles nearby destroyed. Another bomber surged into the residence and detonated his explosives, police told reporters at the scene.

The attack occurred in Quetta’s Civil Lines district, a high-security area of government buildings and official residences.

Quetta is the capital of the restive Baluchistan province, and U.S. officials say it is a hub and transit point for Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters. Taliban factions affiliated with al-Qaeda regularly strike Pakistani security forces and other state targets.

On Monday, the Pakistani military said its Inter-Services Intelligence branch had worked with the CIA to detain three senior al-Qaeda leaders in Quetta, including one who had received instructions from Osama bin Laden to strike economically significant targets in the West.

U.S. Navy SEALs killed bin Laden during a raid in the northeastern Pakistani city of Abbottabad in May, an operation that triggered vows of reprisals from insurgents and nearly broke a long-wary relationship between the CIA and Pakistani intelligence. The recent arrests, cited by Pakistan as an example of intelligence cooperation between the two nations, indicated renewed relations — which could be jeopardized if militants step up revenge attacks.

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