Witnesses said a suicide bomber in his early thirties wearing Pakistan's national dress struck a group of policemen who were guarding a big meeting of Islamic activists in the center of the Pakistani capital.
The religious gathering was marking the one-year anniversary of a military crackdown on Islamabad's radical Red Mosque, just few hundred meters away. The deaths apparently happened instantly with body parts, pools of blood as well as police caps littering the scene.
Police said the blast occurred in front of Aabpara police station after the Red Mosque gathering, and ambulances rushed to the scene to pick up the injured survivors.
Witnesses linked the many reported injuries to the estimated five kilograms explosives mixed with five kilograms of iron pellets and nails used by the attacker. Dozens of injured, most of them policemen, were shifted to Islamabad ’s Poly Clinic hospital, and other hospitals were preparing for receiving more injured persons, BosNewsLife established.
A top official at the federal Interior Ministry, Kamal Shah, told reporters the attack was being investigated, but he dismissed criticism poor security arrangements led to the deadly bombing
"An individual coming and exploding himself, blowing up himself is difficult to prevent. This has happened in other countries of the world. It is not [happening] only in Pakistan."
However the attack was expected to raise concern about religious extremists operating in Pakistan, who have also targeted minority Christians. Militants linked to the Taliban group and supportive of the radical mosque unleashed a wave of deadly suicide bombings across Pakistan in the past year to avenge the operation.
Analysts said most killed in Saturday's blast were security personnel who monitored a crowd condemning the army raid on the Red Mosque complex that killed over 100 people on July 10 last year. The crackdown against the mosque was launched after its clerics and religious students ignored official warnings to end their violent campaign to enforce Taliban-style rule in parts of the Pakistani capital.
The extremists kidnapped women they accused of prostitution, including some Chinese nationals, and warned traders against running music and video shops.
Speaking at a ceremony in the southern city of Karachi hours after Saturday's attack, President Pervez Musharraf said the act of terrorism was in his words a reminder that, "this nation has to show resolve to fight such extremism and terrorism and defeat it."
A funeral service for killed policemen was expected shortly, but doctors have suggested more burials can be expected as many of the injured were listed in critical condition.