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Suicide Attack Near Pakistani President's Office Kills 7

A suicide attacker has killed seven people and wounded 14 others in a blast less than one kilometer from an office of Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from Islamabad that the attacker blew himself up near a police checkpoint in Rawalpindi.

Rawalpindi's police chief Saud Aziz told reporters at the scene that a suspicious- ooking young man had approached a police checkpoint on the main road in Rawalpindi - the site of the headquarters of Pakistan's armed forces.

He said one of the police officers challenged the bomber who then blew himself up.

The blast killed three police officers and several civilians. It charred the police station and damaged several vehicles.

It was unclear what the bomber's intended target had been. Officials insisted it was the police not the military. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has survived several assassination attempts.

Some in Pakistan have linked the attacks to the government's crackdown on Islamic extremists at Islamabad's Red Mosque in July. Pro-Taliban groups frequently cite the raid on the mosque, known as Lal Masjid, to rally supporters against the government.

But following Tuesday's attack, Interior Ministry Spokesman Javid Iqbal Cheema dismissed any such link.

"There have been suicide attacks even before the Lal Masjid operation so therefore to say everything is being done as a result of the Lal Masjid operation I think is not the correct perception," he said.

Cheema instead blamed what he called "extremist elements" that thrive on the fringes of Pakistani society. He said it is time to get serious about pursuing the groups.

Pakistan has suffered a string of suicide bombings against military and political officials this year.

A suicide attack on the homecoming procession for former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto earlier this month killed more than 130 people. In September, two explosions in Rawalpindi killed 25 people, many of them on a Defense Ministry bus.