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At Least 35 Killed As Militants Attack Mosque In Pakistani Garrison Town


Soldiers take up position outside a besieged mosque in Rawalpindi.
(RFE/RL) -- Militants attacked a mosque near a Pakistan's military headquarters in Rawalpindi today, throwing hand grenades and firing on worshippers in the mosque.

Preliminary reports said at least 35 people were killed, two of them said to be army generals, and more than 40 others were wounded.

The attack came during Friday Prayers and targeted a mosque frequented by military personnel.

Military helicopters circled above the area as security forces searched for any militants who may have fled the scene.

Pakistani Army spokesman General Athar Abbas said there was more than one attacker.

"They exploded bombs inside the mosque. There were shots fired," Abbas said, adding that "terrorists were killed but we don't know how many."

Suspicion immediately fell on the Taliban since the group's militants have staged several attacks in the garrison town of Rawalpindi. Today's attack was the third in Rawalpindi since October.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik told a private Pakistani television channel the attackers in the mosque were dressed as worshippers.

Malik said there were two suicide bombers and that as a result of the explosions the roof of the mosque collapsed.

Response To Offensive

Malik said the attack was revenge for the Pakistan army's "successful operations in Swat and Waziristan regions."

Pakistani troops launched an offensive in Swat in the spring to clear the region of militants. After that operation ended, the Pakistani military started another offensive in October in the South Waziristan region.

The head of the Rawalpindi District Headquarter Hospital, Dr. Rehman, told reporters his hospital had put its staff on alert and preparations were already made to accept wounded from the attack.

"We have all the [medical] facilities available. We have surgeons and all the doctors are on call as we have imposed an emergency in the hospital," he said.

"We have emptied our emergency department to make room for any incoming patients."

Witnesses reported seeing gunmen firing from outside the mosque as the explosions went off. Reports spoke of there being some 200 to 300 people inside the mosque, mostly military personnel, at the time of the attack.

with agency reporting