ISLAMABAD: Investigators probing the second assassination bid against President Pervez Musharraf in under a fortnight have identified two suicide bombers killed in the attack, officials said yesterday.
Musharraf escaped unhurt on Thursday when suicide bombers driving cars packed with explosives rammed his motorcade at a petrol station two kilometres from his residence in Rawalpindi.
Analysts and commentators suspect al-Qaeda militants and religious fanatics in Pakistan could be behind an increasingly organised effort to kill Musharraf, a key ally in the US-led anti-terror war.
Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat said the bombers had been identified by security agencies but no further information was available.
“The suicide bombers involved in the attack have been identified,” he told the upper house of parliament.
Officials said 15 people, including the two attackers, were killed and 45 injured after another died overnight.
The dead included four policemen, Rawalpindi police chief Marwat Shah said.
The attack was the second on Musharraf since Dec 14, when the president's motorcade missed a powerful explosion on a bridge by a matter of seconds, also in Rawalpindi, the headquarters of Pakistan's military.
It was the third near-miss for Musharraf, who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999.
He survived an attempt in Karachi in April last year when an explosive-laden car failed to explode after the remote malfunctioned.
Ruling party Senator Mushahid Hussain called the attacks a “matter of deep concern,” especially since the latest bid was made near Musharraf's residence, in the heart of an area controlled by the military.
“It shows an organised group is chasing him,” he said.
“The broad guess is that it could be a nexus between al-Qaeda and extremist militant groups here,” analyst Talat Masood said.
Masood, a former army lieutenant general, said militants want to make Pakistan a fortress for jihad (holy war).
“These groups might see the present policies of Musharraf as detrimental to their interests. They want to eliminate him, thinking that the next guy will be too scared to check their activities.”
Musharraf has been a vital ally of the US in the war on terrorism since the Sept 11, 2001 attacks, infuriating Islamic hardliners inside Pakistan.
Since then Pakistani security forces have captured more than 500 suspected al-Qaeda members, including three close Osama bin Laden allies.
Musharraf also banned 13 extremist and sectarian groups.
About three months ago al-Qaeda's No. 2, Ayman Al Zawahri, in audio tapes broadcast over Middle East media, called on Muslims in Pakistan to overthrow Musharraf for “betraying Islam.”
Musharraf himself said “terrorists and extremists” opposed to the global fight against terror might have plotted Thursday's attacks against him.
He dismissed speculation that the bombings were aimed at disrupting the South Asian summit which will be held in Islamabad from Jan 4 to Jan 6.
“I am the target. People around me may be concerned but there is no threat to citizens and leaders coming for the summit.” – AFP
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