Dozens killed in explosion on Pakistani-Indian border

LAHORE, Pakistan (AFP) - A suicide bomber killed at least 45 people on Sunday at the main Pakistan-India border crossing, the blast tearing through crowds of spectators leaving after the colourful daily ceremony to close the frontier.

The blast came at Wagah border gate near the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore after the "flag-lowering" ceremony, a display of military pageantry that attracts thousands of spectators every day and is popular with foreign tourists.

"It appears to have been a suicide attack. At least 45 people have been killed, two Rangers officials are among the dead and women and children were also killed," Mushtaq Sukhera, the Punjab provincial police chief, said.

Lahore police chief Amin Wains confirmed it was a suicide attack.

"People were returning after watching the parade at Wagah border when the blast took place. Ball bearings were found at the scene," he said.

Huge crowds gather on both sides at Wagah each sunset to see the display of military pageantry that accompanies the formal closing of the border post.

Pakistan has been wracked by a homegrown Taliban insurgency that has killed thousands of people in recent years.

But attacks, once a near-daily occurrence, have tailed off since the army launched a major anti-militant offensive in the northwest.

In June the army began a long-awaited operation against militant hideouts in the North Waziristan tribal area, after a bloody raid on Karachi Airport ended faltering peace talks between the government and the Taliban.

More than 1,100 militants and 100 soldiers have been killed since the start of the operation and more than 100 militants have surrendered, according to the military.

Wagah is the main land crossing between arch-rivals and nuclear powers India and Pakistan, and much of their trade transits through it.

The neighbours have had frosty relations since independence from Britain in 1947, fighting three full wars, two over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.