Two suspected suicide car bombings killed at least 25 people in the Pakistani city of Lahore on Tuesday, posing a fresh challenge to the US-allied country's incoming civilian government.
Nasim Ashraf, Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) speaks during a news conference in Islamabad March 11, 2008. Australia have postponed their planned tour of Pakistan because of fears over the safety of their players. Ashraf said he was disappointed the tour had been postponed but was hopeful it could be rescheduled in the near future.REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood (PAKISTAN)
The deadliest blast demolished much of the federal police headquarters in the heart of the eastern city, while the other hit an advertising office several kilometres (miles) away. Two children were among the dead.
Shortly after the attacks the Australian cricket team said it was cancelling an upcoming tour to Pakistan, due to security fears caused by a wave of violence across the country that has killed more than 600 people this year.
Rescue workers in orange jackets frantically clawed through the debris at the site of the blast at the Federal Investigation Agency, which deals mainly with immigration and people smuggling, an AFP reporter said.
City police chief Malik Mohammad Iqbal said at least 21 people were killed in the bombing and more than 100 injured. "It could be a vehicle-borne suicide attack, we cannot confirm it as yet," he said.
"There was blood everywhere. I also saw mutilated limbs and body parts scattered around the reception area of the building," said lawyer Wali Mohammed Khan, who was on the second floor of the building when the blast happened.
"It was so intense that I was literally blown off my chair. I saw thick smoke everywhere and people running in panic," he told AFP.
FIA chief Tariq Pervaz said paramedics were "trying to rescue survivors from under the rubble." FIA sources said that at least 10 employees were among the dead.
The building also housed the offices of a US-trained special investigation unit created to counter terrorism, which was possibly the target, security officials said.
Pools of blood and small pieces of human flesh lay scattered on the ground outside the eight-storey building, along with clothes and pairs of shoes that were abandoned by people as they ran away.
The second near-simultaneous blast was caused by a confirmed suicide car bomb and hit an advertising agency in an upscale neighbourhood of the city, killing another four people, including two children, police said.
"An explosives-laden vehicle was rammed into the office," interior ministry spokesman Brigadier Javed Cheema said.
President Pervez Musharraf, a key US ally in the "war on terror", condemned the "savage act" and said that the "acts of terrorism cannot deter government's resolve to fight the scourge with full force," state media said.
The explosions came a week after two suicide bombers blew themselves up at a prestigious naval college in Lahore, killing at least five people and wounding 19, officials said.
Pakistan has been rocked by six major blasts since parliamentary polls on February 18, which were won by the parties of slain ex-premier Benazir Bhutto and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
Bhutto herself was killed in a suicide attack in the garrison city of Rawalpindi on December 27.
The parties at the weekend signed an agreement on forming a coalition government that is likely to take on Musharraf, but it must also grapple with the tide of violence engulfing the country.
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.
Many of the attacks have targeted the armed forces, police and security forces. The army's top medical officer was killed in a suicide attack in Rawalpindi on February 25.