Suicide bomber kills 5 at UN office in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: A suicide bomber disguised as a security officer struck the lobby of the UN food agency’s Pakistan headquarters Monday, killing five people a day after the new leader of the Pakistani Taliban vowed fresh assaults, authorities and witnesses said. The blast raises questions as to how the bomber managed to evade tight security at the heavily fortified World Food Program compound in the capital, Islamabad. It could also hamper the work of WFP and other aid agencies assisting Pakistanis displaced by army offensives against al-Qaida and the Taliban in their strongholds close to the Afghan border. Hours after the attack, which the world body said it was closing its offices in Pakistan temporarily. “This is a heinous crime committed against those who have been working tirelessly to assist the poor and vulnerable on the front lines of hunger and other human suffering in Pakistan,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters in Geneva. He said the UN would continue, however, providing humanitarian assistance to the Pakistani people. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing. Militants have carried out scores of suicide attacks in Pakistan over the last 2 1/2 years, several of them targeting foreigners and their interests. Under US pressure, Pakistani security forces have recently had some success combating the extremists.

Today’s blast shattered

windows in the lobby of the compound in an upscale residential area of Islamabad and left victims lying on the ground in pools of blood, witnesses said. The office is close to a home belonging to President Asif Ali Zardari.

“There was a huge bang, and something hit me. I fell on the floor bleeding,” said Adam Motiwala, an information officer at the UN agency who was hospitalised with injuries to his head, leg and ribs. Medical officials at two hospitals said five people had been killed in the attack, including an Iraqi working for the agency. Two of those killed were Pakistani women. Several others were injured, two of them critically, the WFP said in a statement. Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the attacker was wearing the uniform of a paramilitary police officer and asked a guard if he could go inside the building to use the bathroom. He was carrying around 8 kilograms of explosives.

Police official Bin Yamin said the attacker, who was in his 20s, detonated his explosives in the lobby. It was unclear how he made that far. Typically, visitors to UN buildings in Islamabad are screened and patted down for weapons and explosives in secure chambers some distance from the entrance to the building.

US Ambassador Anne Patterson condemned the targeting of aid workers as an attack against Pakistani society. “Such cruel acts expose the true nature of the terrorists’ agenda,” she said. The bombing was

the first such attack in Islamabad since June, when two

police where killed. Another blast in June on a luxury hotel in the northwestern city of Peshawar killed two UN staffers and injured others.