Teen 'beggar' kills Pakistan's surgeon general in suicide attack

  • Updated: February 25, 2008 - 9:14 PM

A teenage boy allegedly dressed as a beggar blew himself up Monday near a military vehicle carrying the Pakistani Army's surgeon general; seven other people also were killed. Meanwhile, gunmen burst into the offices of a British-based aid group in northwest Pakistan, shooting four local staffers to death and burning down their building.

The assaults, both blamed on Islamic extremists, were the most serious outbreak of violence since parliamentary elections a week ago, in which the ruling party affiliated with President Pervez Musharraf was routed by two main opposition parties.

In the attack that killed Lt. Gen. Mushtaq Ahmed Baig, the army's top medical officer, the "beggar" approached the general's car on foot on a busy street in the garrison town of Rawalpindi, authorities said.

Baig was the most senior army official to die in an attack during the six years that Pakistan has been allied with the United States in the fight against Islamic militants.

The bombing was the latest of a string of attacks in Rawalpindi, the seat of the Pakistani military just south of the capital, Islamabad. Despite tight security inside the military area, attackers frequently have targeted army personnel.

The city was also the scene of the Dec. 27 assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. Her Pakistan People's Party, now led by her widower, Asif Ali Zardari, won the largest share of votes in the Feb. 18 elections.

IRAQ

WHEELCHAIR BOMBER KILLS POLICE OFFICIAL

A man in a wheelchair blew himself up Monday and killed a police commander in what an Iraqi official suggested might have been a case of a disabled person being used by insurgents.

If so, it would be the third time this month that disabled people were used to carry explosives, Iraqi officials said.

Also Monday, sectarian attacks on Shiite Muslims walking to the holy city of Karbala for a religious commemoration killed four pilgrims. At least 56 pilgrims were killed Sunday when a suicide attacker blew up a tent south of Baghdad where they had stopped to rest and eat.

The weeklong pilgrimage, which culminates Thursday, commemorates the end of the 40 days of mourning after the death of Imam Hussein, a grandson of the prophet Mohammed.

More than 220 people died during the 2007 pilgrimage. This year, police have banned motorcycles, bicycles, horse-drawn carts and other small vehicles that have been used to carry bombs past checkpoints. An Iraqi security spokesman, army Maj. Gen. Qassim Moussawi, said the bans might be extended to cars and trucks.

Iraqi and U.S. officials say insurgents are adopting new techniques because security measures make it more difficult to use truck bombs and other means.

INDONESIA

U.S. WILLING TO SELL WEAPONS TO JAKARTA

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Monday that the United States was willing to sell Indonesia new weaponry, particularly for its navy and air force. But he cautioned that democracies must have firm civilian control of their militaries, which must be disciplined for human rights abuses.

Gates praised Jakarta for moving to professionalize its military, which for decades under former President Suharto ruled the archipelago with an iron fist until the late dictator was deposed a decade ago.

Although Gates did not criticize the Indonesian military's current conduct, he made a point to emphasize that democracies must investigate and prosecute allegations of corruption or abuse within their armed forces.

"In addition to the importance of civilian control of the military, there cannot be even a taint of corruption or a hint of tolerance for human rights abuses," he told the Indonesian Council on World Affairs.

During the past three years, the United States has moved to lift restrictions on military ties between the two countries that were first cut after Indonesian military atrocities committed in East Timor in 1991.

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