ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A suicide bomber blew himself up outside Pakistan’s naval headquarters in Islamabad on Wednesday, killing a guard and critically wounding two navy personnel.
The violence comes a day after U.S. President Barack Obama announced a dramatic escalation in the war in Afghanistan, a move Pakistani officials fear will push militants across its borders and complicate the army’s battle against the Taliban at home.
The guard was killed as he tried to keep the bomber from entering the naval headquarters, according to Fazeel Asghar, chief commissioner of Islamabad. A total of 11 people were wounded, including a 6-year-old child.
“The attacker was wearing a coat. He was asked to take it off and show identification. When he opened the coat he was wearing a suicide vest which exploded,” Asghar told reporters.
Workers collected body parts as paramilitary soldiers armed with AK-47 assault rifles guarded the area.
It has become a familiar scene in Pakistan, where militants have killed hundreds of people in bombings since the army launched a major offensive in South Waziristan, seen as a global hub for militants, in October.
Obama said on Tuesday the United States would not tolerate Pakistan allowing its territory to be a safe haven for militants and urged Islamabad to fight the “cancer” of extremism.
In an address to unveil a new strategy for the 8-year conflict in Afghanistan, Obama said a cancer had taken root in Pakistan’s border region with Afghanistan and promised U.S. help to end it.
“We will strengthen Pakistan’s capacity to target those groups that threaten our countries, and have made it clear that we cannot tolerate a safe-haven for terrorists whose location is known and whose intentions are clear,” Obama said.
“We need a strategy that works on both sides of the border,” he added, outlining a plan to send 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan.
That may be difficult. Anti-U.S. sentiment is running high in Pakistan. President Asif Ali Zardari is fighting for his political survival and lacks the clout needed to influence the powerful military, which ultimately decides whether to escalate the campaign against militants.
Surveying the scene of Wednesday’s attack, university student Sheikh Waqas Hasan expressed concerns over Obama’s Afghanistan strategy.
“The surge won’t help. It may make us more vulnerable. We’ll see more attacks. If they want more troops, they should first seal and fence the border and then step up operations in Afghanistan,” said Hasan.
Additional reporting by Zeeshan Haider and Augustine Anthony, Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Alex Richardson