- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 12, 2008

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — Two massive bombs ripped through a seven-story police headquarters and a business yesterday, killing at least 24 persons and wounding more than 200 in two suicide attacks that deepened Pakistan’s security crisis.

The blasts were detonated about 15 minutes apart in different districts of this eastern city. The first tore the facade from the Federal Investigation Agency building as staffers were beginning their day.

City police Chief Malik Mohammed Iqbal said a car packed with explosives was driven into a parking lot and detonated next to the building, which houses a department of the federal police’s anti-terrorism unit.

Twenty-one persons were killed, including 16 police officers and a 3-year-old girl, officials said. The wounded included 32 girls who were hit by flying debris at an elementary school near the police building, doctors at Lahore hospitals said.

Tariq Pervez, the director-general of the FIA, said the agency had earlier received information that it could be attacked, but the reports had pointed to an attack against its headquarters in the capital, Islamabad, not in Lahore.

The second bombing hit an advertising agency at a house in an upscale neighborhood less than 50 yards from a residence owned by Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto and co-chairman of her party. Mr. Zardari was in Islamabad at the time. Police said two children and the wife of the house’s gardener were killed in that attack.

The bombings come amid a spate of violence that authorities are blaming on Taliban and al Qaeda-linked militants, spreading beyond their strongholds along the Afghan border, and as the victors of last month’s elections prepare to form a new government.

There have been at least seven suicide attacks in the three weeks since the Feb. 18 vote. Yesterday, President Pervez Musharraf called for the newly elected National Assembly to convene Monday, Reuters news agency reported.

The party of Nawaz Sharif, set to be the junior partner in the incoming coalition, blamed military operations ordered by Mr. Musharraf for destabilizing the country and called for him to resign.

“He has carried out indiscriminate operations in the tribal areas that have opened up new fault lines in Pakistani society,” party spokesman Ahsan Iqbal said.

A spokesman for the country’s largest Islamic group, Jamaat-e-Islami, blamed Mr. Musharraf’s friendship with the United States for a campaign of attacks inside Pakistan.

“It started when we started having a friendship with America. There were no suicide bombings in this country before that,” Syed Munawar Hasan told Dawn News television service. “Unless there are whole domestic and foreign policy changes, I don’t think this is going to stop.”

Mr. Musharraf condemned the “savage” bombings and said they “cannot deter” the government’s resolve to fight the scourge of terrorism “with full force,” according to a statement carried by the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan.

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