Suicide bomber strikes anti-terrorist squad in Islamabad
Dozens die in Pakistan's northwest as police building is wrecked in capital
Elsewhere in Pakistan:
- Two police officers died along with four prisoners and four children when a roadside bomb struck a prison vehicle in Pakistan's northwest.
- Suspected U.S. missile strikes on houses thought to be used by Taliban militants near the Afghanistan border killed at least nine people.
- Pakistani air force jets struck militant positions in northwest, killing as many as 20.
In the capital, descriptions of the attack on the police building varied.
A police commando, Gulshan Iqbal, told the Associated Press he was sitting nearby when a "Suzuki car hit the anti-terror squad barrack and exploded with a big bang."
But Reuters quoted police chief Asghar Raza Gardazi as saying an attacker entered the police building on foot carrying two baskets of sweets and presented one of them to a police officer.
"The moment he gave basket to the policeman, an explosion took place," he said.
The building was largely empty because many officers were guarding the parliament and other areas of Islamabad.
Smoke filled the heavily guarded neighbourhood of the blast, and the facade of the three-storey brick building was destroyed and a staircase collapsed, AP said.
Security briefing occurring in city
The city had been under tight security because of the briefing, officials said.
The region along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border is a known haven for al-Qaeda and Taliban militants and Pakistani extremists who attack American and NATO troops in Afghanistan.
Washington has urged Pakistan to assert control in the region and take stiffer action against militants in the mountainous tribal belt. But there's been growing concern in the U.S. that Pakistan is unwilling or incapable of rooting out extremists in its border region.
Some Pakistanis believe the alliance with the U.S. has increased violence in the country and have condemned attacks in Pakistan by Afghanistan-based American forces as a violation of the country's sovereignty.
Pakistani leaders have also decried the operations, and vowed the military would defend the country's territory.
President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani issued a statement on Thursday saying the Islamabad attack "would not deter the government from fighting the scourge of terrorism."
Children, prisoners killed by roadside bomb
Meanwhile 10 people were killed and at least four were wounded in the Dir region of the country's northwest.
Four children, two police and four prisoners died when a roadside bomb targeted a prison vehicle and also caught the walking school children in its wake, government official Habib Rehman said.
Pakistan has been experiencing a wave of militant violence in recent months. On Sept. 20, a suicide bombing at the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad killed 53.
Pakistan's military has reported that suicide attacks have killed nearly 1,200 people — most of them civilians — since July 2007.
A military official said Thursday jet fighters carried out two air strikes on a hideout and a training facility used by fighters loyal to militant commander Mullah Fazlullah, who emerged at the head of a revolt in the northwest valley of Swat late last year.
Officials said 20 militants were killed in the strikes that hit about 10 kilometres northwest of Mingora.
With files from the Associated Press and Reuters