ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A suicide bomber targeted police officers in Pakistan's capital Sunday, killing at least 15 people and wounding dozens while thousands of Islamists marked the one-year anniversary of a deadly military crackdown on a mosque nearby.
The blast — apparently the deadliest in Islamabad in about a year — again brought Pakistan's battle against militancy, mainly staged in the northwest tribal regions near Afghanistan, home to the usually tranquil capital.
The attack occurred in an intersection near a police station and a shopping center. Naeem Iqbal, a police spokesman, said at least 15 people died, most apparently police officers who were part of a large security detail.
Zafar Yab Ahmad, who lives nearby, said, "I was standing with my niece. We were saying, 'Why are there so many police officers standing down there?' And I went inside and just as I entered, the bomb went off."
Less than a half-mile away, thousands of Islamist students and clerics had gathered in memory of last year's siege of the radical, pro-Taliban Red Mosque. It was not clear if the events were linked, and a mosque official condemned the attack.
Sunday's blast was eerily reminiscent of a suicide attack that killed at least 13 people and wounded 71 last July 27, the day the Red Mosque reopened after the military operation.
Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik said that based on witness accounts, the attacker was a man appearing to be "35, 37 years old" who ran into the crowd of police.
Malik said the nation has to think about "who is destabilizing our country" and take action. "We have to take them out from our ranks. We have to combat them."
A new government that came to power after February elections has sought to end militancy in Pakistan primarily through peace deals with extremists.
That approach has earned criticism from U.S. officials, who say the deals will simply give time for militants to regroup and intensify attacks on foreign forces in neighboring Afghanistan.
Information from the New York Times was used in this report.