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Gunmen Attack Rawalpindi Mosque in Pakistan

Police say gunmen attacked a mosque Friday near the country's army headquarters, killing at least 35 people and wounding more than 40 others.

Pakistani soldiers take up position outside a besieged mosque in Pakistan's garrison city Rawalpindi, 04 Dec 2009
Pakistani soldiers take up position outside a besieged mosque in Pakistan's garrison city Rawalpindi, 04 Dec 2009

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Police in Pakistan say gunmen attacked a mosque Friday near the country's army headquarters, killing at least 35 people and wounding more than 40 others.  Pakistani state television say authorities still are searching for the attackers.

The attack occurred in Rawalpindi, just outside the Pakistani capital Islamabad, at the conclusion of Friday's prayers at the Parade Lane mosque. 

Regional police officer Aslam Tareen spoke to reporters shortly after the assault.

He says when the prayer leader finished his sermon, two to three attackers entered the mosque's main hall and opened fire on the crowd.  He says the attackers then threw hand grenades, which caused huge explosions.

The mosque is located in a high-security area dominated by Pakistani military personnel, with many military residential complexes and offices nearby. 

Security analyst and retired Brigadier-General Mahmood Shah tells VOA that retired army officers frequently visit this mosque.

He also says that he suspects the country's Taliban militants, who attacked the nearby army headquarters in October, are focusing on so-called "soft targets" to create confusion and strike at the country's military.

"They are nibbling around the area at whatever they can get," Shah said."It is not possible to cover the complete [Rawalpindi] area.  Prayer places are considered to be respected."

A day earlier, a suicide bomber killed two guards and wounded 11 other people at the Pakistani naval headquarters, which is located in Islamabad.

Hundreds of people have died in Pakistan's escalating violence since the government launched in mid-October an offensive against Taliban militants near the Afghan border. 

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