Death toll rises to 9 after Pakistan ISI attack

The death toll has risen to nine from a suicide car bomb attack on Pakistan's top intelligence agency and police living quarters in the southern town of Sukkur, officials said Thursday.

The dead include five attackers, and four police and intelligence officials, a spokesman for the paramilitary Rangers told AFP after the attack late Wednesday in the normally sleepy town.

Officials had previously put the death toll at seven, saying Wednesday that the five attackers, one intelligence agent and another government official had been killed.

The attack in Sukkur, 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) south of Islamabad, is likely to revive fears that the reach of Islamist militancy is spreading in the nuclear-armed state of 180 million.

"We rounded up several people on Wednesday night after the attack and are interrogating them," the Rangers official said.

An intelligence official told AFP that the attack had destroyed the local branch of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and damaged newly-constructed residential quarters for police officers.

State TV said at least 38 people were wounded. It was the worst attack in Pakistan during the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan so far.

Also on Thursday, gunmen ambushed a senior police commander as he headed to work in the northwestern city of Peshawar, seriously wounding him and killing his bodyguard and driver, officials said.

The country is battling a Taliban-led domestic insurgency that has killed thousands of civilians and security personnel since 2007.

Officials blamed Islamist militants for Wednesday's attack, confirming that they do have a presence in the Sukkur area.

Police said the attackers stormed the complex as people were eating after sundown, detonating two bombs outside the police building and the ISI office.

The ISI is Pakistan's most powerful spy agency and has been attacked several times in the past by Islamist militants, although such violence in Sukkur is extremely rare.

In May 2009, a suicide attack outside a police building next to the local ISI headquarters in the eastern city of Lahore killed 24 people.

In November that year a powerful car bomb ripped through ISI's headquarters in Peshawar, killing 10 people and destroying part of the fortified building.

A month later, in the central city of Multan, two suicide attackers fired at soldiers while driving a truck bomb past security checkpoints in an attempt to approach the local office of the ISI.

Police are often the softest targets in the Taliban-led insurgency, which is concentrated in the northwest along the Afghan border.

Thursday's attack on the police commander in Peshawar was carried out by people laying in wait on motorbikes, officials said.

"The deputy commander of Frontier Reserve Police Gul Wali Khan was going to his office from home when four people on two motorbikes lay in wait on both sides of the road," police official Imran Shahid said.

"They opened fire on his vehicle. His bodyguard and his driver have been killed," Shahid told AFP.

A spokesman for the main government-run Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar said the commander was in a critical condition.

"We have received two dead bodies and the situation of the deputy commander is critical. He has been hit by three bullets and he is in surgery," the spokesman, Jamil Shah, told AFP.