Pakistan probes militant link in Danish embassy bombing
Pakistani investigators on Tuesday were processing forensic evidence to close in on any lead on the car bombing outside the Danish embassy that left six people dead, officials said.
The suspected suicide strike on Monday gave impetus to security fears stemming from militant activity in the country's lawless tribal areas where the two-month-old government is trying to achieve peace with pro-Taliban fighters through controversial accords, reported dpa.
Though no direct link between the early afternoon attack and the militants has so far been established, authorities suspect hardcore elements could have hit the mission in anger after the republication of Prophet Mohammed cartoons in Danish newspapers earlier this year.
A supposedly lone attacker drove a stolen sedan carrying fake marked registration plates reserved for diplomats through police cordons in one of Islamabad's upmarket residential neighbourhoods before the explosives were detonated next to the embassy's entrance.
"A well thought-out strategy enabled the attackers to strike at the Danish embassy despite that the law enforcers were on the alert amid intelligence reports about similar terror threats," a senior security official said on condition of anonymity.
According to him, the plotters waited for some let-up in the security that had been heightened in February when the caricatures triggered violent protests across Pakistan, as in other Muslim countries.
Mirza Yasin, the head of the investigative team, said the embassy bombing had many parallels to those carried out previously by militants entrenched in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan to strike security installations and other high-value targets.
"This particular bombing has many similarities to the bombings in Sargodha and Lahore," he told Geo news channel as he inspected the site of the blast on Tuesday.
Eight people, including four officers, were killed when a motorbike-riding bomber targeted an air force bus in Sargodha last November, while 22 died in a suicide bombing at the Federal Investigation Agency offices in the eastern city of Lahore on March 11.
A Taliban spokesman, Maulvi Omar, said in a statement released late Monday that he had no information on the embassy attack.
Yasin also told Geo that experts had prepared a sketch of the suspected suicide bomber, without explaining whether the drawings were made with the help of CCTV recordings which they have reportedly been examining since yesterday evening or from another source.
Sources in the interior ministry said a Danish team of experts was also to join the investigations. "They will arrive soon and we have been informed by the Danish government," said an official.
The intelligence sources were also focusing on the possibility that the al-Qaeda terrorist organisation might have carried out the attack.
Al-Qaeda has repeatedly called for revenge attacks on Danish interests following the printing and re-printing of the Mohammed cartoons in late 2005 and early 2008.
Monday's blast extensively damaged the façade of the Danish embassy. Several adjoining buildings and scores of vehicles also bore the brunt of the high-intensity explosion.
The mission's diplomatic staff, which had already been reduced, escaped the bombing and all the casualties were Pakistani nationals, among them two embassy employees.
The bombing drew worldwide condemnation with the Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moller saying it was an attempt to spoil Pakistan's strengthening relations with the West.
His Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the action could not be justified "whatever the reason is."
Rehman Malik, the security adviser to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, had sought an initial report on the findings by Wednesday.
He said the tragic incident, which greatly harmed Pakistan's image, would not impede the peace talks between the government and the militants in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.
Pakistan's tribal belt has sanctuaries for al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters who launch cross-border attacks on NATO-led international forces in Afghanistan.
But they turned on Pakistani security forces last year, carrying out dozens of suicide bombings that killed more than 3,000 people.
The peace process, under which the government has so far signed two peace accords, one directly with the militants in the restive valley of Swat and the other indirectly through tribal elders with the Mohmand Agency, have caused a sharp decline in the attacks inside the country.
But the militants have vowed to continue to hit foreign forces inside Afghanistan. Security analysts believe the peace agreements which only concern the local militants would not stop al-Qaeda from targeting Western interests in Pakistan.