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Death Toll Hits 45 In Pakistan Blasts


A woman weeps for her missing son at the site of one of the bombings in Lahore.

A woman weeps for her missing son at the site of one of the bombings in Lahore.

(RFE/RL) -- Three attacks, at least two of them by suicide bombers, have killed at least 45 people in the Pakistani city of Lahore, including 10 army personnel, and injured more than 100.

The first two bombings targeted the military garrison in the eastern city, considered Pakistan's cultural and commercial hub.

The city is the capital of Punjab Province, where police chief Tariq Saleem Dogar confirmed the death toll to reporters. He said two suicide bombers attacked just a few seconds apart.

Several hours later a series of explosions rocked a residential area of Lahore within the space of one hour. Local media reports said the low-intensity blasts injured three people.

An hour after the midday blasts, senior Lahore police official Chaudhry Muhammad Shafiq told journalists that the Pakistani military had been the target.

"This happened in the cantonment [garrison] area and targeted security forces’ patrol vehicles here next to the main R.A. Baazar,” Shafiq said. “The two suicide attacks happened within 15 seconds. We have found the head of the first suicide bomber."

Police said the blasts targeted army vehicles at a busy time in a neighborhood where several security agencies have facilities.

Lahore has been targeted by Islamic militants several times in recent months. On March 8, at least 13 people died in a suicide bomb attack on a police intelligence building.

The Pakistani Taliban reportedly claimed responsibility for that attack, but nobody has so far claimed today's bombings.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi condemned the blasts in a statement, vowing "terrorism will never be allowed to succeed in its nefarious designs."

Pakistani authorities say security crackdowns have weakened Al-Qaeda-linked Pakistani Taliban militants fighting to topple the civilian government in Islamabad.

Military operations over the last year have significantly weakened the Taliban who once held large swaths of territory in northwestern Pakistan.

But the highly-trained and motivated extremists have a history of disappearing into Pakistani cities and border areas where the military presence is thin.

Lahore's top civilian administrator Sajjad Bhutta asked people to stay calm and vowed to protect the population.

"Allah is protecting us and our morale is high,” Bhutta said. “Our police and security forces are committed to protect peace in this region. We need to expand out intelligence network."
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