8 dead in Pakistan army camp attack

Gunmen have killed eight people in an attack on a Pakistani army camp in a city where thousands of hardline Islamists spent the night on their way to the capital to protest over the government's recent decision to reopen the Nato supply line to Afghanistan, police said.

Police are searching for the attackers and it is unclear if any of the Islamist protesters were involved, said Basharat Mahmood, police chief in the eastern city of Gujrat where the attack occurred.

"It is surely a terrorist attack," said Mr Mahmood. "The attackers could have taken cover. They could have hid themselves among the protesters."

The camp on the outskirts of Gujrat was attacked at around 5.20am local time, a little less than an hour after the leaders of the Difah-e-Pakistan, or Defence of Pakistan, protest movement finished delivering speeches inside the city, said the police.

The group, which includes hardline Islamist politicians and religious leaders, left the city of Lahore on Sunday along with 8,000 supporters in 200 vehicles to make the 185-mile journey to Islamabad.

They travelled about halfway, spent the night in Gujrat and planned to hold a protest in front of parliament in the capital on Monday.

The roughly half a dozen gunmen who attacked the camp were riding in a car and on motorcycles. They killed seven soldiers at the camp and a policeman who tried to intercept them as they were escaping, said police chief Mr Mahmood. Four policemen and at least three soldiers were injured, he added.

The camp that was attacked was set up to look for the body of an army major who was flying a helicopter when it crashed into a river in the area, said police.

Pakistan closed the supply line in November in retaliation for American air strikes which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. The government finally agreed to reopen the route last week after the US apologised for the deaths.

One of the reasons Pakistan waited so long to allow Nato troop supplies to resume was that it was worried about domestic backlash in a country where anti-American sentiment is rampant.