|ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Sept. 13 ? At least 15 soldiers from an elite commando unit were killed Thursday evening when a blast, apparently set off by a suicide bomber, tore through the dining hall of a military installation in northwestern Pakistan, military officials said.
One of the victims of a bombing at a high-security military installation in Pakistan was taken for treatment on Thursday.
At least 27 soldiers were wounded; six were in critical condition.
The soldiers killed belonged to a unit of Special Services Group, commonly known as commandos, of the Pakistani military. Pakistan?s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who is also the military chief, belongs to the S.S.G.
The attack took place about 50 miles outside the capital, Islamabad, in the cantonment area of Tarbela Ghazi at the brigade headquarters of the Special Operation Task Force. The unit has been set up with American aid to flush out Al Qaeda from the semiautonomous tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan.
A security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the blast was the work of a suicide bomber, adding that the bomber could have been one of the civilian workers at the brigade headquarters.
?This is a high-security zone,? the official said. ?Obviously, this was someone who was known and familiar to the soldiers there, and it could be one of the civilians working at the base.?
Government officials would not publicly confirm that it was a suicide attack, however, and there were no immediate claims of responsibility. Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad, the spokesman for the Pakistani military, said the cause of the explosion was still being investigated.
The attack on the military installation coincided with a visit to Islamabad by the United States deputy secretary of state, John D. Negroponte, who met Thursday with General Musharraf.
Pakistan has been raked with surging violence as the military battles militants sympathetic to the Taliban and Al Qaeda, with a rising number of deadly attacks on military targets.
The attack on Thursday was the second time this month that a high-security installation had been hit, showing the ease with which terrorists have been able to penetrate seemingly secure military areas to inflict damage.
On Sept. 4, at least 25 people were killed when two suicide bombers blew themselves up in the garrison city of Rawalpindi. Many of the victims belonged to the country?s powerful intelligence agency, known as Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI.
The blast Thursday occurred around 8 p.m. as soldiers were having dinner in the mess hall, the military spokesman said.
Afterward, security officials cordoned off the area and the wounded were ferried to the military hospital in nearby Attock and Rawalpindi.
A kind of rapid reaction force, the Special Operation Task Force has conducted raids in the restive South and North Waziristan tribal region, where Taliban and Qaeda militants are based.
The commandos of the Zarrar Company ? the antiterrorist unit of the Special Services Group ? took part in the military operation against the militants holed up in the Red Mosque in Islamabad in July.
Salman Masood reported from Islamabad, and Ismail Khan from Peshawar.
It is 15 commandos dead and further 27 wounded from their Tier 1 anti-terror unit, a company sized one (126 cdos) to put things in perspective.
Early reports, still seen in some newspapers, carried a story of an SSG commando as being the suicide bomber. The SSG is supposed to be the main goto guys for Coalition intelligence. Precarious is the word for this situation, I believe!