A pair of suicide bombers attacked a top army officer in Pakistans southwestern city of Quetta on Wednesday,missing him but killing his wife. At least 22 others died,including several guards,a senior officer and two children,officials said.
The police said they were investigating whether the strike was in revenge for the recent arrests in Quetta of three top al-Qaeda suspects,an operation that was assisted by the CIA.
But within hours,the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack and a spokesman for the group said Brig Khurram Shahzad,the deputy head of the regions Frontier Corps,was targeted because of an incident several months ago that left five people dead at a checkpoint in the city.
In Wednesdays blasts,the first attacker detonated his vehicle next to a group of Frontier Corps officers close to Shahzads house. Hurling grenades,the second attacker than stormed the house and blew himself up inside it,police officer Naseer Ahmed Kurd said.
Police officer Hamid Shakil said at least 23 people were killed and more than 60 were injured. Two of the dead were children traveling in a rickshaw. A colonel in the corps was also killed,he said.
Shakil said one of the suicide bomber was carrying an identity card showing him to be a 21-year-old Afghan refugee.
The bombing comes just days after Mondays disclosure of the arrests of the three al-Qaeda suspects in the city. The Pakistan army statement announcing it had stressed the level of CIA involvement,a possible sign of an upswing in cooperation between two uneasy anti-terror allies after the rancour surrounding Osama bin Ladens killing.
US officials praised the operation,saying the detention of the most senior militant,Younis al-Mauritani,was a significant achievement. The Frontier Corps took part in the operation. Quetta is a dangerous city,and is thought to be home to al-Qaeda and Taliban.