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Bomb Blast Hits U.N. Agency in Islamabad

A Pakistani officer of anti-terrorist squad stands guard outside the offices of the World Food Program (WFP) after an explosion in Islamabad, Pakistan on Monday, Oct. 5, 2009. The blast left victims lying on the ground in pools of blood and shattered windows in the heavily guarded and fortified building in Islamabad, witness said. The WFP is distributing food to poor Pakistanis, including those in the northwest. (AP Photo/B.K.Bangash)
A Pakistani officer of anti-terrorist squad stands guard outside the offices of the World Food Program (WFP) after an explosion in Islamabad, Pakistan on Monday, Oct. 5, 2009. The blast left victims lying on the ground in pools of blood and shattered windows in the heavily guarded and fortified building in Islamabad, witness said. The WFP is distributing food to poor Pakistanis, including those in the northwest. (AP Photo/B.K.Bangash) (B.k.bangash - AP)

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By Shaiq Hussain and Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, October 6, 2009

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Oct. 5 -- An apparent suicide bomber set off an explosion inside the heavily guarded office of the United Nations' World Food Program on Monday, killing at least five people and wounding five others, according to police and U.N. officials.

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Five people working for the WFP were confirmed dead after the attack, and a number of others were hospitalized with injuries, some of them critical, the agency said in a statement. The dead included two Pakistani women.

The agency listed the confirmed fatalities as an Iraqi information and communication technology officer, Botan Ahmed Ali al-Hayawi, and four Pakistanis: Abid Rehman, a senior finance assistant; Gulrukh Tahir, a receptionist; Farzana Barkat, an office assistant; and Mohammed Wahab, a finance assistant.

A spokesman for the WFP in Islamabad, Amjad Jamal, said five other Pakistanis were wounded in the blast.

"We are trying to determine what actually happened, whether somebody entered into the building or something was planted or thrown inside," he said, adding that some evidence suggested a suicide bombing.

"All of the victims were humanitarian heroes working on the front lines of hunger in a country where WFP food assistance is providing a lifeline to millions," the agency's executive director, Josette Sheeran, said in a statement. "This is a tragedy -- not just for WFP -- but for the whole humanitarian community and for the hungry."

The world's largest humanitarian agency, the WFP provides food assistance to as many as 10 million people across Pakistan, including up to 2 million civilians who were displaced by fighting in the Swat Valley this year.

The bombing was the latest in a series of blasts that have rocked Islamabad in recent years. The Taliban and other militant groups have carried out major attacks on other locations where foreigners work or visit, including restaurants and hotels. In September 2008, a truck laden with explosives rammed into the Marriott Hotel, killing 52 people.

The Pakistani Taliban has said it would avenge the death of its leader, Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed by a U.S. drone strike in August in the tribal district of South Waziristan, where the Pakistani army is preparing for a ground operation.

Witnesses to Monday's bombing described the carnage inside the WFP office, a grim scene of pooled blood and shattered glass. One employee, Sajjad Anwar, said the blast occurred in the reception area, smashing windows and cracking walls.

"The explosion was so huge that if I were at the reception, I would also have been killed," he said.

He said he had been comfortable with the level of security at the office, where those entering were scanned for weapons. Because of such strict measures, some people at the scene speculated that security guards may have been involved in helping the bomber.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari strongly condemned the blast. In a statement, he said, "Pakistan will not be deterred in its efforts to fight extremism and terrorism and will continue its quest to bring peace by eliminating the terrorists."

Partlow reported from Kabul.


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