Nirupama Subramanian

Explosion shortly before arrival of ousted Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary

ISLAMABAD: An apparent suicide bombing at the district courts complex in the Pakistan capital on Tuesday night killed at least 12 persons and left at least 35 injured, shortly before ousted Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary was to arrive there to address lawyers of the Islamabad Bar Association.

Mr. Chaudhary accompanied by a massive motorcade of supporters, was still en route to the venue and moving at snail’s pace when the explosion took place at about 8.30 pm.

Hundreds of lawyers and activists of opposition parties were at the venue waiting for the Chief Justice to arrive, when a massive explosion shattered the festive mood at the event. “We were raising slogans when we heard a huge explosion. Then people started screaming and running out,” said one lawyer who was present at the venue.

Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao said at least 12 persons were killed in the explosion and 35 were injured. “It was apparently a suicide bombing,” Mr. Sherpao told local television.

Interior Ministry spokesman Brigadier Javed Iqbal Cheema said 10 persons died, and that the death toll was likely to rise.

Eyewitnesses said the explosion took place close to a reception tent of the Pakistan People’s Party. Many of the dead are feared to be PPP activists. Immediately after the incident, Islamabad police stopped the Chief Justice’s motorcade close to the Supreme Court. The procession then moved into the Supreme Court but Mr. Chaudhary proceeded to the venue later.

There were reports that Mr. Chaudhary planned to visit the injured in hospital.

The country has been on high alert since the Lal Masjid operation last week. The Interior Ministry spokesman said “there could be a linkage” between this incident and “the security situation in our north.” Nearly 100 people have been killed in suicide bombings in the last two weeks in the north-west frontier area.

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