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Taliban bombing near Pakistan military HQ kills ninePublish Date: Jan 20, 2014
Taliban bombing near Pakistan military HQ kills nine
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Pakistani security officials inspect the site of a bomb attack in Rawalpindi on January 20, 2014 (AFP, Aamir Qureshi)
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A Taliban suicide bomber killed at least nine people in a market close to Pakistan's military headquarters on Monday, a day after one of the deadliest attacks on security forces in recent years.

A further 18 people were wounded in the blast which tore through RA bazaar in Rawalpindi, Islamabad's twin city, at around 7.45 am (0245 GMT), officials said.

Sajid Zafar Dall, the top government official in Rawalpindi, confirmed the blast was a suicide attack.

"Nine deaths are confirmed while 18 people were wounded," he told reporters.

"The attack occurred when children were going to school. Our initial assessment is that the bomber was possibly on a bicycle and he then approached the target on foot."

It came a day after the Pakistani Taliban killed 20 soldiers and wounded 30 others in a suicide bombing in the northwestern town of Bannu.

The umbrella Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) movement have been waging a bloody campaign against the Pakistani state since 2007, carrying out countless bomb and gun attacks, often on military targets.

The military headquarters came under attack in 2009, when militants laid siege to the complex for 24 hours. A total of 19 people died including eight militants.

Major naval and air force bases have also been targeted in recent years.

A senior Pakistani general was killed in a blast last September along with two other soldiers in an attack claimed by the Taliban.

TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid claimed the attack as payback for a deadly military raid on a radical mosque in Rawalpindi in 2007.

"It was carried by one of our suicide bombers to take revenge for the Red Mosque massacre," he told AFP.

"We will continue our struggle against the secular system."

'Injured screaming on ground'

Eyewitnesses described the power of the explosion, which hit around a kilometre (half a mile) from the military HQ.

"I was reading a newspaper after opening my shop and all of a sudden I heard a big blast," Liaqat Ali, a grocery shop owner near the site told AFP.

"The intensity of the blast threw me off my chair. I rushed outside and saw smoke and smoke everywhere. I saw injured laying and screaming on ground."

Police and commandos cordoned off the area as ambulances took wounded to a nearby military hospital.

The two high-profile attacks in 24 hours mark a sharp upturn in violence from the TTP after a period of relative quiet following the death of their leader Hakimullah Mehsud in a US drone strike in November.

The spike will raise fresh questions about Pakistan's strategy for dealing with the homegrown militant threat.

The government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said it wants talks with the Taliban and got the backing of all major political parties for dialogue in September.

But so far little progress has been seen and terror attacks rose 20 percent in 2013, according to the independent Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies.

In claiming the Bannu attack on Sunday, the TTP threatened to carry out more attacks, saying they wanted revenge for the deaths of Mehsud and deputy Waliur Rehman -- both killed in US drone attacks.

After Mehsud was killed they said they would not engage in any dialogue with the government.

But Shahid told AFP Sunday the group "is ready for meaningful negotiations despite facing huge leadership losses, if the government proves its authority and sincerity" by halting drone attacks and withdrawing troops from tribal areas.

AFP

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