Eight killed in Islamabad bombing, India House hit (Fourth Lead)

June 2nd, 2008 - 7:02 pm ICT by IANS  

By Muhammad Najeeb
Islamabad, June 2 (IANS) Up to eight people, including possibly a foreigner, were killed in a suicide car bombing outside the visa section of the Danish embassy here Monday. The powerful blast, heard in a radius of five kilometres, also damaged windowpanes of the nearby India House, the Indian envoy’s official residence. The attack took place around 1 p.m. when a car packed with about 30 kg of explosives at the parking stand of the mission exploded with a deafening roar, seriously damaging nearby buildings and setting many cars and trees ablaze.

The explosion was so massive that the car’s engine landed some 300 feet away. A three feet deep crater developed on the road outside the Danish mission. About 20 people were injured, a few seriously. Panic gripped the area.

It was the first suicide attack after a new civilian government took office in Islamabad in March.

The blast partially damaged the diplomatic mission’s building and an adjacent office of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the posh Islamabad neighbourhood of F6 district. The nearby India House suffered cracks on its boundary walls. Its windowpanes were shattered.

Indian diplomats said that India’s High Commissioner, Satyabrata Pal, was not at home and that others residents were safe. Pakistani officials quickly explained that the target of the attack was the Danish embassy and linked it to the Prophet Mohammed cartoons the Danish and Norwegian media published around two years ago.

Mohammad Salim, who works for the UN-backed Devolution Trust for Community Development on the same street and who reached his office moments after the attack, said he saw “blood and smoke” and added that trees were burning. “Our building looked like it had been destroyed.”

UNDP employee Munawar Fiaz added: “After the explosion I rushed to the main exit and there were pieces of broken glass, metal, wood and blood. There was a security guard lying in a pool of blood.”

The Danish embassy is one of the few diplomatic missions in the Pakistani capital located in a residential zone. Immediately after the explosion, the Norwegian embassy here protectively suspended its operations.

The explosion was heard more than five kilometres away. The smoke emanating at the blast site could be seen from across much of the capital. A witness told IANS that there were 12 to 15 visa seekers outside the embassy when the car bomb went off.

DPA quoted Asmatullah Marwat, chief of the state-run rescue service, as saying that his staff had moved eight bodies to two hospitals. The nationality of the dead foreigner was not immediately known.

But Deputy Commissioner Islamabad Amir Ali Ahmad, confirming that two policemen were among the dead, insisted that no foreigner was among the dead or injured.

However, one list of the victims showed that a Brazilian woman, Maria, was among the injured. An interior ministry source also said that a foreigner had been killed.

In Copenhagen, Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moller condemned the bombing as “completely unacceptable”. He told broadcaster TV2 that there were “fanatics and terrorists out there and we are doing what we can to protect ourselves”.

The Danish foreign ministry revised its travel advisory for Pakistan, urging Danish nationals to avoid unnecessary trips to that country. Danish nationals in Pakistan were advised to be on the alert.

Naheed Irshauddin, a spokeswoman at the Denmark Consulate General, told DPA that the consulate in Karachi had sought more security following Monday’s deadly bombing in Islamabad.

Islamabad police chief Asghar Gardizi said that initial investigations showed that a suicide bomber detonated the explosives planted in the car.

The cartoons of Prophet Mohammed published in Danish and Norwegian newspapers had sparked riots in Pakistan, where police shot dead a dozen people.

Amid threats from Islamist extremists, the Danish embassy had downgraded the mission and relocated its diplomatic staff in recent months.

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