M A I N   N E W S

Bomb blast in Islamabad
8 killed, 30 hurt outside Danish mission
Windowpanes of India House shattered
Afzal Khan writes from Islamabad

A car bomb blast outside the Danish consulate in Islamabad’s posh residential area killed at least eight persons and wounded around 30 others on Monday.

The police suspected that a suicide bomber carrying about 30 kg of explosives tied beneath the car had caused the explosion, but said it was not sure. “It could be a suicide blast or somebody might have detonated the explosive through remote control,” interior secretary Kamal Shah said adding: “Investigation is continuing”.

No individual or group immediately claimed the responsibility for the bombing, but Denmark had remained a target of protest rallies by religious parties because of the publication of a cartoon derogatory to Prophet Mohammad.

But a senior leader of the religious-political Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI), Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, while condemning the blast, said the protests against Denmark had substantially decreased after the Danish government apologised over the cartoons and took other corrective measures. Pakistan media today gave wide publicity to an edict issued by one of India’s leading religious institutions, the Deoband, terming terrorists as enemies of Islam.

The dead included two police guards on security duty in the street, besides staff and servants of the adjacent offices and houses. The neighbourhood included offices of the UNDP, an NGO, the Indian High Commissioner’s residence and others. The police denied earlier reports that a foreigner was also killed.

Foreign secretary Salman Bashir visited the place and urged security agencies to tighten security around foreign missions in the capital. Rehman Malik, adviser to Prime Minister, said directions had been issued for a preliminary report on the incident within next 24 hours. He denied reports that the incident occurred because of security lapse. “In fact security was reinforced recently,” he added.

This was the second blast in the capital since February 18 elections after which a steep decline had been witnessed in terrorist acts in the country. The attack was the first in Islamabad since a bomb blast at an Italian restaurant frequented by foreigners on March 15 killed a Turkish woman and wounded 10 foreigners, including four US FBI staff.

Kamal Shah said the bomber drove his car inside the street where the Danish consulate is located. The explosives were detonated about 70 feet from the consulate, but the impact was so severe that it damaged several buildings, besides the Danish consulate. About 24 vehicles parked in the reserved parking area and outside residential houses in the street were badly damaged. The blast left a huge six-feet crater in the street outside the Danish mission, destroyed boundary walls of adjacent buildings and uprooted several trees.

Denmark had downgraded the mission and kept only skeleton staff assigned to perform visa and other duties. No Danish diplomat or staffer was hurt. Another consulate of Netherlands was closed some months back and its staff was moved to Serena Hotel. Tens of thousands of Pakistanis are currently working in Denmark, Norway and other Scandinavian countries.

Kamal Shah said the car was stolen by the bomber and was carrying a fake number plate. He added the person driving that car was a bearded man. It was possible that one other person might also be there. “It was twice intercepted on the nearby Margalla road where security guards were detailed and all traffic on the road blocked because of impending arrival of President Pervez Musharraf to address the National Defence University (NDU)”, he said.

Denmark had downgraded the embassy and moved out most foreign staff in recent months due to threats linked to a row over the reproduction in February of blasphemous cartoons in the Danish media, diplomatic sources said. “It was a suicide attack carried out in a vehicle, apparently targeting the Denmark Embassy,” a senior security official said on condition of anonymity. There was no immediate comment from the Danish Embassy officials, but reports from Copenhagen said the Danish foreign minister might visit Islamabad soon.

Officials from the nearby embassy said their staff were unhurt and the building was not affected. However, private television channels reported windowpanes of the Indian Embassy, at some distance, were smashed. A worker at the UN-backed NGO, Devolution Trust for Community Development, said he arrived at his office seconds after the explosion. “I saw blood and smoke and trees were burning and debris was in the air settling down. Our building looked like it had been destroyed,” Mohammad Salim said.

President Pervez Musharraf, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and top political leadership, including Asif Zardari, Nawaz Sharif, Asfandyar Wali Khan, Altaf Hussain, Imran Khan and Qazi Hussain Ahmed have condemned the blast.



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