Bombing kills 25 near intelligence office in eastern Pakistan

Rescue workers remove the body of a victim at the site of a bombing in Faisalabad, Pakistan's third-largest city
Rescue workers remove the body of a victim at the site of a bombing in Faisalabad, Pakistan's third-largest city (Agence France-presse Via Getty Images)

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Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, March 8, 2011; 4:40 PM

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN - A car bomb exploded near an office of Pakistan's main intelligence agency in the eastern city of Faisalabad on Tuesday, killing 25 people in the type of militant attack that is growing more common in the country's populous heartland.

A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban asserted responsibility for the attack and said it was aimed at the intelligence office, the Associated Press reported.

Police said the bomb, which was detonated at a gas station, sparked additional explosions of natural gas cylinders, compounding the damage. The blast destroyed parts of several businesses, including an office of the national airline, and wounded at least 100 people.

Sectarian violence is common in Faisalabad, Pakistan's third-largest city and a textile-producing hub, but Tuesday's blast was the first major militant attack there. Militants have often carried out bombings in other large cities, including Lahore, about 80 miles to the east. The attacks regularly target Pakistan's security forces, who in recent years have mounted counterterrorism offensives against insurgent hideouts in the mountainous northwest.

Now, Pakistani authorities and analysts say, violent extremist organizations are spreading across Punjab province, of which Lahore is the capital.

Southern Punjab is home to militant groups that traditionally focused attacks on Indian targets but are now thought to be deepening ties to Taliban factions in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The car bombing occurred nearly a week after the assassination of federal cabinet minister Shahbaz Bhatti, which a group calling itself the Punjabi Taliban said it had carried out.

Bhatti, a Christian, had spoken out against Pakistan's anti-blasphemy laws, which are enforced most stringently in Punjab province. The laws are fiercely defended by religious organizations, which contend that violators of the statutes - and supporters of the violators - deserve death.


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