A bomber blew himself up in an Islamabad bank on Monday, killing a security guard and wounding four other people in the first suicide attack in the Pakistani capital for nearly two years.
The attack comes with Pakistan on edge weeks after US Navy SEALs found and killed Osama bin Laden in the garrison city of Abbottabad, two hours’ drive from Islamabad, in a case that humiliated the seemingly all-powerful military.
Although it was not immediately clear who carried out the bombing, Pakistan’s main Taliban faction has claimed a series of high-profile attacks since the May 2 American raid, ostensibly to revenge bin Laden’s death.
Police said the bomber detonated his explosives when challenged by the guard at a branch of the Silk Bank in the middle-class I-8 sector of the capital.
“It seems to be a suicide attack, we have found the head and the body parts of the bomber,” city police chief Wajid Durrani told reporters.
“One security guard is confirmed dead while two others are injured,” he told AFP, estimating that the bomber was aged 24 to 25 years old.
Hospital officials put the number of injured at four.
“We have received one dead in addition to some body parts of the bomber,” doctor Farrukh Kamal at the city’s main hospital told AFP.
“There are four wounded but they are out of danger,” he added.
The front of the bank was badly damaged and hoardings smashed. Pieces of human flesh were scattered on the floor and several cars parked outside were also damaged, said an AFP reporter.
“I was returning from lunch when I heard a deafening noise,” said Chaudhry Yassir, who works in another bank nearby, told AFP.
“I saw the guard. It’s difficult to describe his condition. He was being rushed to the hospital but there was no hope.
“The same building has a wedding hall in the basement but there was no function at the time of the blast,” Yassir added.
Islamabad is the most heavily protected city in the country and Monday’s suicide attack was the first in the capital since December 2009, when a bomber attacked Pakistan’s navy headquarters, killing one person.
On Sunday, a roadside explosion wounded three men near Malpur village just outside Islamabad. Police said the device had long been buried.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani ordered the interior ministry on Monday to take “preemptive effective measures” to check the “menace” of bomb attacks.
Although bombings have targeted embassies, hotels and restaurants, the capital has been shielded in recent years from much of the Taliban- and Al-Qaeda-linked violence that affects the country’s northwest.
Two political killings hit the capital earlier this year. Minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti and liberal politician Salman Taseer were shot dead separately for calling for amendments to controversial blasphemy laws.
“We received no threats and we can’t say why we were targeted,” Imran Sheikh, the regional head of Silk Bank, told AFP.
The bank is run by a consortium headed by the family of former Pakistani finance minister Shaukat Tareen, he said, adding that the building previously housed a branch of the Saudi Commercial Bank.
An AFP reporter said the bomb brought down part of the bank’s ceiling. The boots and belt of the dead security guard lay on the blood-spattered floor and the walls were marked with blood and pellet marks.
Papers and files littered the main hall while dust, dirt and glass fragments covered the desks and broken computers.
Almost simultaneously a bicycle bomb went off in a military area of the southwestern city of Quetta, wounding two people.
“It was a timer device attached to a bicycle,” local police officer Jaffar Hussain told AFP, adding that one of the wounded was in serious condition.
Quetta is capital of Baluchistan province, which borders Iran and Afghanistan and is in the grip of a regional insurgency for greater political autonomy and a greater share of the profits of natural resources.
Nearly 4,500 people have been killed across Pakistan in attacks blamed on Taliban and other Islamist extremist networks based in the tribal belt since government troops stormed a radical mosque in Islamabad in 2007.