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Suicide Attacks Kill 25 Outside Pakistani Capital


Twin suicide bomb blasts have rocked the garrison town outside Pakistan's capital city. Officials say at least 25 people have been killed and more than 60 others injured in the blasts that appeared to target defense workers. From Islamabad, VOA Correspondent Benjamin Sand reports.

The first blast ripped through a bus early in the day in a high security area in Rawalpindi, just outside the busy capital.

"The bus was with one of the organizations under the Ministry of Defense," said Major General Waheed Arshad, a spokesman for the army. "Terrorists are terrorists - they can undertake their activities anywhere."

Local officials report the bus was carrying defense personnel but it is not clear which agency they work for.

Rawalpindi is the headquarters for Pakistan's powerful army.

A second bomb detonated a few minutes later in a nearby market, killing several other people.

Police have cordoned off both areas and security forces are on heightened alert throughout the garrison city.

General Arshad says that so far no one has claimed responsibility for the violence.

"We will have to wait for some investigations to take place before we can be very firm on what are the motives and who is behind this," he said.

This is the first attack in or near the capital in several weeks, following a period of mounting violence throughout the country.

Officials here blame supporters of the Taleban and al-Qaida extremists for the growing unrest.

Suicide attacks and bombings soared after government forces stormed Islamabad's pro-Taleban Red Mosque in July.

The raid provoked outrage among religious hard-liners, especially in the country's volatile tribal areas along the Afghan border.

Violence there has surged in recent weeks despite the deployment of some 100-thousand government troops to the border areas.

Tuesday's attacks also come just weeks ahead of expected presidential elections.

President Pervez Musharraf is seeking another five-year term in office but opposition parties are gaining ground and Pakistan has been gripped by political uncertainty.

Exiled former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Bennazir Bhutto both say they will soon return to Pakistan to contest the president's military-backed government.

Mr. Musharraf and Ms. Bhutto are discussing a possible power-sharing alliance but talks have stalled in recent days.

Government officials insisted the day's attacks would not delay the elections. They also sharply dismissed any suggestion the violence could lead to a declaration of emergency or martial law.