http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080602/ap_on_re_as/pakistan;_ylt=A9G_R29o4ENIMl

Bomb explodes outside Danish embassy in Pakistan

By ASIF SHAHZAD, Associated Press Writer 22 minutes ago

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – An apparent car bomb exploded outside the Danish
embassy in Pakistan’s capital on Monday, killing at least five people and
wounding dozens more, officials and witnesses said.
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The blast echoed through Islamabad and left a crater more than three feet
deep in the road in front of the embassy. Shattered glass, fallen masonry
and dozens of wrecked vehicles littered the area. A plume of smoke rose
above the scene as people, some bloodied, ran back and forth in a state of
panic.

The explosion appeared to be a car bomb, police officer Muhammad Ashraf
said. Someone parked a car in front of the embassy and it exploded at around
1 p.m, he said.

Officials at two hospitals reported at least five people – including two
policemen – were killed and 35 wounded in the blast.

Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller said the explosion killed a male
Pakistani custodian at the embassy and seriously injured a handyman. Two
office workers were also injured, Moeller said.

He condemned the attack as “totally unacceptable. ”

“It is terrible that terrorists do this. The embassy is there to have a
cooperation between the Pakistani population and Denmark, and that means
they are destroying that,” Moeller told Denmark’s TV2 News channel.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman
al-Zawahri recently called for attacks on Danish targets in response to the
publication of caricatures in Danish newspapers depicting the Prophet
Muhammad.

Denmark has faced threats at its embassies following the reprinting in
Danish newspapers of the caricatures depicting the Prophet Muhammad. Muslims
generally consider depicting the prophet to be sacrilegious and Islamic
militants had warned of reprisals.

In April, Danish intelligence officials warned of an “aggravated” terror
threat against Denmark because of the cartoon. The warning specifically
singled Pakistan, along with North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Ben Venzke, CEO of IntelCenter, a U.S. group that monitors al-Qaida
messages, said the bombing was likely the work of the terror group or one of
its affiliates.

He said al-Qaida laid out an extensive justification for attacks against
Danish diplomatic facilities and personnel in a video last August, and
repeated its threat earlier this year.

“I urge and incite every Muslim who can harm Denmark to do so in support of
the Prophet, God’s peace and prayers be upon him, and in defense of his
honorable stature,” IntelCenter quoted al-Zawahri as saying in an April 21
video.

Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir pledged Pakistan would do all it could to
safeguard foreign diplomatic missions.

“I think the Pakistani nation feels very ashamed today on incidents such as
these,” he said.

It was the second targeting of foreigners in less than three months in the
usually tranquil Pakistani capital. A bombing in March at a restaurant in
Islamabad that killed a Turkish aid worker and wounded at least 12 others
including four FBI personnel.

“I was with a friend passing through a nearby street then we heard a big
bang,” said witness Muhammad Akhtar. “Then we saw smoke and people running
in a frenzy. We shifted at least eight or nine injured to hospitals. They
all have got serious injuries. They were soaked in blood.”

Footage from the scene showed rescue workers dragging away a bloodied
person, covering his torso with a blanket.

Sirens wailed as ambulances took the wounded from the scene. One group of
rescuers carried away what appeared to be the upper half of a man’s body.
Pieces of metal and glass were scattered at least 200 yards from the blast
site.

An exterior wall of the embassy collapsed and its metal gate was blown
inward but the embassy building itself remained intact. The Danish flag and
the EU flag were blown off their staffs and the windows of the embassy were
blown out.

The Norwegian Foreign Ministry closed its embassy a few hundred yards from
the Danish mission. It suffered “glass breakage” from the blast, a ministry
statement said. The Swedish embassy also shut down, Swedish foreign ministry
spokesman Kent Oberg said.

The U.S. Embassy, meanwhile, urged Americans to use extra caution when
traveling through Islamabad and avoid the blast site.

The office of a Pakistani development organization opposite the embassy was
badly damaged, its roof partially collapsed.

Anjum Masood, a field operations manager for the U.N.-funded group,
Devolution Trust for Community Empowerment, said dozens of its 100 employees
were wounded, mostly because of flying glass. His own left hand was
bandaged.

Taliban and al-Qaida-linked militants have launched a wave of bombings in
Pakistan over the past year, mostly targeting security forces.

Pakistan’s new government is trying to strike peace deals with militants in
its regions bordering Afghanistan, a pursuit eyed warily by the U.S.

Pakistani officials condemned the blast but indicated they did not want to
stop the talks. The government has insisted it is not talking to
“terrorists” but rather militants willing to lay down their weapons.

“There is no question of any impact of this incident on the peace process,
but of course it badly harmed our image in the world,” said Rehman Malik,
the Interior Ministry chief.

There had been a relative lull in violence since a new civilian government
took power two months ago and began peace talks with the Taliban based along
the Afghan frontier.

The United States has expressed concerns that the peace deals will simply
give the militants time to regroup and intensify attacks on U.S. and other
foreign forces inside Afghanistan.

In April, Denmark briefly evacuated staff from its embassies in Algeria and
Afghanistan because of terror threats related to the Muhammad drawings.
Foreign Minister Moeller then suggested Danish embassies in other locations
also could be forced to relocate their staff following a warning in March by
al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

 

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