ISLAMABAD, July 6: At least 15 policemen and two other people were killed and more than 40 injured in a suicide attack near the Melody Market on Sunday right after the culmination of the “Lal Masjid Shuhada (martyrs) Conference” held to observe the first anniversary of the military operation against the mosque and seminary.

Several fiery speeches were made at the conference against the authorities responsible for the operation. The attack is being considered a revenge action for the operation in which at least 103 people, including 95 alleged militants or madressah students, were killed in July last year.

Prime Minister’s Adviser on Interior Affairs Rehman Malik confirmed the death of seven policemen of Punjab and five of Islamabad, including Sihala SHO Chaudhry Mohammad Safdar.

“It was a suicide bombing in which the attacker targeted security personnel,” the adviser said.

According to unofficial sources, 17 people were killed, 15 of them policemen. About 5kg of explosives was used.

The government formed a joint investigation team comprising officials of Inter-Services Intelligence and the Federal Investigation Agency.

Blood and human limbs were scattered at the site on Sadar Road near Melody Market. The blast took place at around 7:45pm and it was heard miles away. Smell of explosive and burnt bodies engulfed the area which was cordoned off by security forces.

According to a security official, the suicide bomber sporting a beard and clad in white Shalwar Qameez struck a police party comprising 35 to 40 personnel deployed to provide security to the people attending the conference.

Bodies and injured were taken to the three main hospitals of the capital.

Residents of Sector G-6, where Melody Market is located, came out of their homes with their children in panic after receiving telephone calls from friends and relatives within the country and abroad.

Mr Malik, who earlier claimed that foolproof security arrangements had been made for the conference, paid a brief visit to the blast site.

“We are in a state of war and time has come for the people to expel anti-state elements from their ranks,” he said.

He said the investigators had seized batteries of the suicide vest used in the attack and limbs of the bomber. “The blast was an attempt to de-stabilise the country,” he said.

When asked if the attack had been carried out to avenge last year’s Lal Masjid operation, the adviser said it would be premature to say anything.

Those killed in the blast included Sub-Inspector Zafar Iqbal; Punjab Police Assistant Sub-Inspector Nawaz; constables Haji Ilyas, Aftab, Babar Ali Shah, Qamar Abbas, Shahid Maqsood, Mohammad Attaullah, Haq Nawaz, Khalid Mehmood and Amjad; and civilians Mohammad Siddiqui and Abdul Sattar.

More then 3,000 police personnel from the capital, Punjab, the NWFP and Azad Kashmir had been deployed to avert any untoward incident during the conference.