ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Equipment installed on the Pakistani leader’s limousine to jam devices that trigger bombs probably saved him from an assassination attempt during the weekend, intelligence officials said yesterday.
The powerful bomb that exploded moments after President Pervez Musharraf’s motorcade passed over a bridge on Sunday evening had been delayed by crucial seconds by jammers that temporarily disabled the bomb, they said.
“It was enough time for Musharraf to cross the bridge,” an intelligence official said on the condition of anonymity.
No one was hurt in the bombing, which destroyed a section of the bridge in Rawalpindi, a city near the capital, Islamabad. It was at least the second assassination attempt on Gen. Musharraf, a key ally in the U.S. war on terror.
Investigators have not identified any suspects but were looking into the possible involvement of terror network al Qaeda and banned Pakistani militant groups, officials said.
The sophisticated bomb — initially estimated to contain 550 pounds of explosive — was thought to include a remote control as well as a timing device to trigger it, two intelligence officials said.
The equipment in Gen. Musharraf’s car jammed the timer for about a minute and jammed the remote control, the officials said.
The jammers usually work by emitting a magnetic impulse to block frequencies used to trigger explosive devices — including the electronic signals from precision timers.
Gen. Musharraf has said he heard and felt the blast about 30 seconds to a minute after he passed the bridge. There were no injuries as the bridge had been blocked to traffic to let his motorcade pass.
On Tuesday, the president made a 20-minute visit to the site of the blast and asked investigators to find and arrest the people responsible as soon as possible, officials said.
Gen. Musharraf, who took power in a bloodless coup in 1999, angered hard-liners in his country by reversing its support for the Taliban regime in neighboring Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks.
Although some in Pakistan question his determination to crack down on politically influential religious radicals, Gen. Musharraf has taken some bold and controversial steps in tackling the threat from extremists.
He has deployed at least 70,000 troops to track suspects in sensitive tribal regions along the border with Afghanistan, where sympathies for the Taliban run high, and has handed over hundreds of terror suspects to the United States.
Referring to the assassination attempt, Pakistani defense analyst Talat Masood said security agencies worldwide use “jammers” and other equipment for the security of dignitaries, which had been imported to Pakistan.