M A I N   N E W S

Suicide bomber kills 15 at Pak lawyers’ meet
K.J.M. Varma

Ex-CJ Chaudhry, who was to preside over the meeting, driven to safe place

Islamabad, July 17
At least 15 persons were killed and over 40 injured today when a suicide bomber blew himself up near an enclosure of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto-led Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) at a meeting of lawyers here due to be addressed by suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar M. Chaudhry.

The chief commissioner of police in Islamabad, Khalid Pervez, told mediapersons that it was a suicide bomb attack and it took place 100 metres outside the venue where a number of political parties had set up their booths to welcome Chaudhry. He said the attack left 15 dead and over 40 injured. TV channels, however, put the number of injured at around 100.

The blast took place at around 8.30 pm Pakistan time when Chaudhry was being brought in a procession to the District Bar Association meeting venue. His convoy was 20 minutes away from the spot when the explosion occurred. He was immediately driven to safety.

It appeared that the bomber, whose severed head was found close to the site of the explosion at the busy F-8 area of the city, was aiming to cause maximum casualties to the PPP.

Musharraf has condemned the blast “in the strongest terms”, saying that it is a terrorist act.

Bhutto claimed the blast was directed against her PPP and said the role of a “hidden hand” behind it to create panic and make a case for imposing emergency or put off the general election due to be held later this year could not be ruled out.

The blast comes three days before Pakistan’s Supreme Court is expected to decide whether to allow or overturn the March 9 suspension of Chaudhry by the President.

After initially being driven to safety, Chaudhry, however, decided against going home and came to the venue despite advice by the officials.

He arrived at the meeting along with his team of defence lawyers headed by Atezaz Ahesan, who is also a veteran parliamentarian. Interior secretary Sayed Kamal Shah said elaborate security arrangements were made inside the venue.

After the blast, several lawyers blamed the government, alleging that it was an attempt to scuttle the meeting.

Meanwhile, the interior secretary said he feared more attacks in Islamabad as there were reports of a number of suicide bombers having sneaked into the city. — PTI



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