Thursday, January 10, 2008

Pakistan - Suicide blast kills 23

At least 23 people have been killed in a suicide blast which struck outside a Pakistan courthouse in Lahore. There had been a strong police presence at the courthouse in anticipation of protests by lawyers. But at 11:45 local time [06:45 GMT] a suicide bomber believed to be on a motorcycle approached a checkpoint and detonated his explosives. Most of the dead are said to be police and up to 60 others were injured in the explosion. The blast comes less than two weeks after Benazir Bhutto was targeted by a gunman and suicide bomber [CNN / BBC].

Suicide attacks have increased over the last three months, and killed more than 400 people, according to the Pakistani authorities [CNN]. At least a further 1000 individuals have been injured by the 19 attacks which are beginning to worry the international community and the IAEA over the stability of the country. Even before today’s blast the head of the International Atomic Energy Authority said he was concerned Pakistan’s nuclear weapons could fall into militants’ hands. Quoted in the Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat, Mohamed ElBaradi said he, “worried that nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of an extremist group in Pakistan or in Afghanistan". The head of the IAEA furthered his concern saying, "I fear that chaos... or an extremist regime could take root in that country [Pakistan] which has 30 to 40 warheads" [BBC].

But his comments have been dismissed by Pakistan authorities with one Foreign Office spokesman saying "Our nuclear weapons are as secure as that of any other nuclear weapon state. We therefore believe that statements expressing concern about their safety and security are unwarranted and irresponsible."

There are concerns that the turmoil in the country is likely to increase as the February 18th election nears.

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