x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Blast strikes UN Islamabad office

Two Pakistani women and an Iraqi national were among five people killed by a suicide bomber who struck a UN office in the heart of Islamabad.

Pakistani security officials and rescue workers survey the site of a bomb blast in Islamabad October 5, 2009.
Pakistani security officials and rescue workers survey the site of a bomb blast in Islamabad October 5, 2009.

A suicide bomber disguised as a security officer struck the lobby of the UN food agency's Pakistan headquarters, killing five people a day after the new leader of the Pakistani Taliban vowed fresh assaults, authorities and witnesses said today. The explosion inside the offices of the World Food Programme (WFP) comes after Taliban rebels vowed to avenge the death of their leader Baitullah Mehsud, killed in a US missile strike in August. Several people were also injured in the blast, with scenes of confusion around the walled compound and office in central Islamabad, where smoke billowed out and ambulances rushed to the scene.

"It was a suicide blast," said Bani Amin, the deputy inspector general of police operations, adding the bomber managed to enter the WFP office and detonate about eight kilograms of explosives. "We have recovered legs and the skull of the suicide bomber. We are investigating how he managed to enter inside the building. There are scanners, there are cameras and strict security arrangements," the police official said.

Mr Amin later added that one of the victims was an Iraqi national. The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned the bombing saying the attack was "unjustifiable" and calling it a "heinous crime". A local UN staff member at the scene said he saw one severed leg in the reception, while an AFP reporter outside the compound said he saw smoke coming out from behind the compound wall. Another security official at the scene who asked not to be named said that up to nine people had been injured: "Among them four to five are foreigners."

The prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's office issued a statement saying he "strongly condemned" the blast and had ordered an inquiry. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Taliban militants holed up in the northwest tribal belt have been blamed for a string of attacks and suicide blasts that have killed more than 2,100 people in the last two years. Three bomb blasts in the past two-and-a-half weeks in the northwest have killed 28 people, with the Taliban claiming responsibility for one of the blasts and threatening to unleash bigger assaults.

There was a lull in attacks after Baitullah Mehsud's death in an August 5 US drone strike, but analysts had warned that the new Taliban leadership would likely be keen to show their strength with fresh, dramatic strikes. *AFP