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34 killed in Pakistan as CIA chief visits

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Two explosions went off minutes apart in the northwest Pakistani city of Peshawar early today, killing 34 people and injuring nearly 100 in one of the deadliest attacks since the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden last month, officials said.

The blasts, one of which was caused by a suicide bomber, occurred just after midnight in an area of the city that is home to political offices and army housing.

The attack took place as CIA director Leon Panetta and Afghan President Hamid Karzai visited Islamabad, 95 miles to the east, to speak separately with senior Pakistani officials about intelligence sharing and efforts to reconcile with the Taliban.

The first explosion was relatively small and drew police and rescue workers to the site, said Dost Mohammed, a senior local police official. A large explosion rocked the area a few minutes later, causing the fatalities and injuring 98 people, 18 critically, said Rahim Jan, a senior doctor at a local hospital.

The second blast was caused by a suicide bomber riding a motorcycle packed with 22 pounds of explosives, said Ejaz Khan, a senior police official. The source of the first explosion was unknown.

No group claimed responsibility, but the Pakistani Taliban has pledged to carry out attacks in retaliation for the covert U.S. Navy SEAL raid that killed bin Laden in an army town outside Islamabad on May 2.

Today's attack took place across the street from the offices of the top political agent to Khyber, part of Pakistan's volatile tribal region, and only about 100 yards from army housing units. Peshawar borders the tribal region and has been repeatedly hit by bombings over the past few years.

The dead included at least one journalist, said Mohammed Farooq, a hospital doctor. Four other journalists and at least 10 police were injured, he said. Many of the people killed were so badly burned they were difficult to identify.

Panetta's visit is his first to Pakistan since the bin Laden raid. His ties with Pakistan will be key in his new role as U.S. defense secretary, presuming he is speedily confirmed by Congress.

34 killed in Pakistan as CIA chief visits 06/11/11 [Last modified: Saturday, June 11, 2011 9:42pm]
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