A suicide bomber has killed at least 13 people in a crowded market near the Pakistani army headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, not far from the capital Islamabad, police have said.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack.
The market, 10 minutes’ walk from the army headquarters, is in one of the most secure areas of the city, said Rawalpindi police chief Akhtar Hayat Lalika.
The area was cordoned off by the military immediately after the blast.
|Kamal Hyder reports from Islamabad|
Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder, reporting from Islamabad, said at least a dozen people had been injured in the explosion, which happened about 600m from the medical building in which former military ruler Pervez Musharraf is being treated following reports of ill health.
“There is some speculation as to what the intended target was,” he said, adding that the death toll was expected to rise.
“The man was stopped on his motorbike at an army checkpoint and it is then that he decided to detonate his device. There are children among the wounded as this happened at a very busy rush hour.”
A 19-year-old student and a teacher were thought to be among the dead.
The attack came a day after a Taliban bombing killed 22 Pakistani soldiers near the largely lawless, tribal region of North Waziristan.
Sunday’s attack was one of the deadliest to target the country’s forces as they battle fighters in its volatile border area and prompted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to cancel his trip to the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos.
The Taliban called the attack a suicide bombing. Military officials said the blast came from an explosive planted in a vehicle hired by the paramilitary Frontier Corps.
The Pakistani military has been fighting for years in the tribal areas against armed groups who want to overthrow the government and establish a hardline Islamic state.
Sharif’s government is keen to pursue peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban to end the insurgency but there has been an upsurge in attacks since Sharif won elections in May 2013.