RAWALPINDI, Pakistan – A suicide bomb killed 35 people near Pakistan’s military headquarters Monday while a second blast wounded several police, continuing a wave of terrorism that prompted the United Nations to suspend long-term development work near the Afghan border.
The rash of attacks by Islamist militants has killed at least 300 people across Pakistan over the past month – including 11 U.N. workers – and threatened to destabilize the nuclear-armed nation.
The violence has grown bloodier since the government launched an anti-Taliban offensive in mid-October, pushing into the impoverished and underdeveloped tribal region of South Waziristan. The U.N. decision to suspend non-emergency aid could weaken efforts to counter the appeal of extremism by improving ordinary people’s daily lives.
The first suicide bomber Monday killed 35 people outside a bank near Pakistan’s military headquarters in Rawalpindi, just a few miles from Islamabad.
Most of those waiting in line were from the military and were there to cash paychecks, said Mohammad Mushtaq, a wounded soldier.
“I was sitting on the pavement outside to wait for my turn,” said Mushtaq, who suffered a head injury. “The bomb went off with a big bang. We all ran. I saw blood and body parts everywhere.”
Four soldiers were killed in the attack and nine were wounded, said the army’s chief spokesman, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas. In total, 35 people were killed, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said.
No group claimed responsibility for the bombing, though suspicion immediately fell on the Pakistani Taliban.
Hours later, another suicide bombing ripped through a police checkpoint on the outskirts of the eastern city of Lahore. At least seven policemen were wounded and two were in critical condition after a car with two men inside blew up as police went to search it.
“By putting their lives in danger, our men have saved the city from enormous sabotage,” Lahore Police Chief Pervaiz Rathor told reporters at the scene.
Police checkpoints, where cars are forced to drive slowly past officers looking inside, have become common sights in Pakistan.
Pakistan’s president and other top officials condemned the blasts but vowed to press on with the South Waziristan offensive. Taliban militants have de facto control in many of the semiautonomous tribal areas.