LAHORE: March 11, 2008. Two suicide car bombers killed at least 26 people and partly demolished a key police building in Lahore Tuesday, deepening the security crisis facing Pakistan`s incoming civilian government.
Another 175 people were wounded in the massive attacks, which came just minutes and kilometres apart during the morning rush-hour and left rescue workers scrambling through piles of rubble and charred flesh in a bid to find survivors.
The blasts prompted the Australian cricket team to cancel an upcoming tour to Pakistan, amid security fears caused by a wave of violence that has killed more than 600 people across the country this year.
"I have never seen such a deadly suicide attack," Federal Investigation Agency chief Tariq Pervaz told reporters outside the agency`s badly damaged headquarters in the heart of the eastern city.
"We had reports that FIA offices would be targeted but we were not expecting it in Lahore," he said, adding that up to 50 kilos (110 pounds) of explosives were used in the blast there.
Twenty-two people including 12 agency employees were killed in the blast at the FIA building, while another four died, including two children, in the other attack on an advertising office a few kilometres away, he said.
"There was blood everywhere. I also saw mutilated limbs and body parts scattered around the reception area of the building," lawyer Wali Mohammed Khan, who was on the second floor of the police building when the blast happened, told AFP.
Pools of blood and small pieces of human flesh lay scattered on the ground outside the eight-storey headquarters, along with clothes and pairs of shoes that were abandoned by people as they fled.
The explosion tore off the facade, exposing stairwells down which rescue workers could be seen carrying stretchers. Windows up to two kilometres (just over a mile away) were shattered and several cars set ablaze.
The agency mainly deals with immigration and people smuggling but the building also housed the offices of a special US-trained unit created to counter terrorism, which was possibly the main target, security officials said.
The second near-simultaneous blast was also caused by a suicide car bomb and hit an advertising agency in an upscale neighbourhood of the city, police said.
"An explosives-laden vehicle was rammed into the office," interior ministry spokesman Brigadier Javed Cheema said.
It was not immediately clear why the advertising firm was targeted but the office is close to the Lahore home of Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.
President Pervez Musharraf, a key US ally in the "war on terror", condemned the "savage act" and said the "acts of terrorism cannot deter government`s resolve to fight the scourge with full force," state media reported.
The explosions came a week after two suicide bombers struck a naval college in Lahore, killing at least five people, in the third attack to hit the previously peaceful city this year.
Pakistan has been rocked by six major blasts since parliamentary polls on February 18, which were won by the opposition parties of the late Bhutto and fellow former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
Bhutto was killed in a suicide attack in the garrison city of Rawalpindi on December 27.
Musharraf on Tuesday summoned the new parliament to meet on March 17, his spokesman Rashid Qureshi told AFP -- finally setting up a showdown with his rivals that could potentially further destabilise the nuclear-armed nation.
Zardari and Sharif on Sunday agreed to form a coalition government that is expected to take on Musharraf, who seized power in a coup in 1999, but they must also grapple with the tide of violence engulfing the country.
"Terrorists are trying to put pressure on the government-in-making. But I am sure the government-in-making will also have the same resolve to deal with terrorism," Cheema said.
Pakistan has been combating an Islamist insurgency led by Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters since Musharraf joined the US-led "war on terror" in 2001, but the violence has soared since the start of 2007.