20 killed in Pakistan car bomb explosion

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The Independent Online

Twenty people have been killed in a car bombing in eastern Pakistan, police said.

About 100 others were injured in the attack outside a petrol station in the city of Faisalabad in Punjab province.

Faisalabad police chief Aftab Cheema called the bombing a "terrorist attack".

The blast badly damaged the station and an office of Pakistan's state-run airline in eastern Faisalabad, though the initial target was not immediately clear. The district in the important industrial city is home to commercial, police and government buildings.

Islamist militants seeking to overthrow the government have bombed hundreds of police, army, commercial and civilian targets in Pakistan over the past three years. Most have been in the north-west close to the Afghan border where the insurgents are at their strongest.

Today's bombing apparently caused secondary explosions at the fuel station, adding to the destruction, Mr Cheema said.

TV footage showed piles of bricks, and chunks of twisted metal from cars strewn across the area. Rescue workers struggled to pull victims out of the rubble.

Faisalabad, 160 miles (260km) south of Islamabad, is home to Pakistan's textile industry. Militants have rarely struck there, but it lies in Punjab province, where Islamist extremist groups have deep roots and are believed to be growing in strength.

The US has pushed Pakistan to crack down on Islamist extremist groups in its borders, saying they threaten not only Western troops engaged in the Afghan war effort but also the stability of Pakistan itself.

The army has launched offensives in the north-west, but questions remain over whether the state has fully severed ties with extremist networks it once supported for foreign policy goals.