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Lahore blast toll rises to 13

A suicide car bomber has struck a building where police interrogate high-profile suspects in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore, killing at least 13 people and wounding 61 others, including women taking children to school, officials said.

The attack shattered what had been a relative lull in major violence in Pakistan.

It also showed that rebels retain the ability to strike the country’s heartland, far from the Afghan border regions where al Qaida and the Taliban have long thrived, despite army offensives aimed at wiping them out.

No group immediately claimed responsibility, but suspicion fell on the Pakistani Taliban and allied militant groups.

Those groups are believed to have been responsible for a wave of attacks which killed more than 600 people starting in October, including several in major Pakistani cities. More recent attacks have been smaller and confined to remote north-west regions near Afghanistan.

The latest explosion comes amid reports of a Pakistani crackdown on Afghan Taliban and al Qaida operatives using its soil. Among the militants said to have been arrested is the Afghan Taliban’s number two commander, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.

The bomb went off outside a Punjab province police building, police official Zulfikar Hameed said. TV footage showed a huge crater in the ground where the blast seemed to have originated. It appeared the suicide bomber rammed a car packed with as much as 1,300lb (600kg) of explosives into the building’s perimeter wall, officials said.

Police official Chaudhry Shafiq said 13 people had died. Of the 61 people wounded, several were in a critical condition.

Hospital official Jawed Akram said the dead included at least one woman and a young girl, apparently part of a group heading to a school. Several women were among the wounded.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik painted the attack as sign of desperation from militants whose “backs have been broken” by the army. “They are taking guerrilla actions but gradually it is decreasing and they are being arrested and in the coming days they will have no chance,” he said. (geo TV)

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