At least 20 Pakistanis killed as two blasts rock Lahore

(dpa) - At least 20 people were killed in two bombings in the northern Pakistani city of Lahore Tuesday, including 16 killed in an explosion that badly damaged Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) building, officials and local media said.

At least 134 wounded in the blasts were taken to city hospitals.

More were feared trapped inside the FIA building but everyone possible has been evacuated, Malik Iqbal of the Lahore City Police said. He added they feared the building was so badly damaged it could collapse any time.

The explosion at the FIA was from a vehicle parked near the entrance, or driven into the lobby of the building, local media reported. It occurred about 9:30 am local time at the eight-story building where 200 to 300 people work.

The second blast killed four people in an advertising agency in Model Town, a residential and business area in Lahore, police said. Earlier local media reports the blast was at a police station were incorrect, police said.

Local media reported two suicide bombers drove a vehicle inside the house-office and blew the car up.

Both explosions appeared to be suicide bombings, but authorities could not confirm that.

The FIA is in charge of investigating suicide attacks in Pakistan, which has suffered more than 60 nationwide in the past 15 months.

"At the time of Tuesday's blast military intelligence personnel were meeting with FIA officials at the building. They were sharing information about the suicide attack that killed six people last week at the Naval War College," in Lahore, FIA director Miian Manzoor told reporters.

Tuesday's blasts were the latest in a 15-month campaign by suspected Islamic militants targeting security forces and political figures.

Pakistan has suffered more than 60 suicide attacks in the past 15 months that have killed more than 1,000 people in a campaign that escalated after army commandos stormed the Red Mosque in Islamabad to end a siege by armed militants. Hundreds of people were believed to have died in the army attack, prompting Islamic militants to seek revenge against the military.

The most recent attacks have been in Lahore, but overall most of the attacks have occurred in the volatile tribal areas of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP).

Pakistan's tribal areas are safe-havens for al-Qaeda militants and Taliban fighters who have launched cross-border attacks on international forces into Afghanistan. However, the militants have turned inward and launched regular attacks against Pakistani security forces and rival tribes.

Opposition parties who swept to power in national elections on February 18 will immediately face the problem of Islamic militancy and suicide bombings that increased during the watch of embattled President Pervez Musharraf.

Some incoming politicians have called for dialogue with the militants, a reversal of the military strategy pursued by Musharraf, a key US ally in fighting Taliban and al-Qaeda militants in the tribal areas.

There is speculation the militants have upped their bombing campaign to send a message to the incoming government and parliament, which will convene later this month, not to continue supporting US. President George W Bush's so-called "war on terror."

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