- The Washington Times - Friday, December 26, 2003

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — At least one of the three suicide bombers who tried to assassinate President Pervez Musharraf was a foreigner, raising the specter that international terrorists had a hand in the attack, investigators said yesterday.

Thursday’s attack — the second attempt in 11 days to kill Gen. Musharraf — was carried out by “a mix of local and international terrorists,” Information Minister Sheik Rashid Ahmed said.

Still, the government stopped short of accusing Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda terrorist network in the attack, as it did after the first attempt on Dec. 14.

“Which group carried out the attack — al Qaeda, local militant or sectarian organizations — it would be guesswork to say right now,” Interior Ministry spokesman Abdur Rauf Chaudhry said.

Mr. Ahmed said one of the attackers who bombed the president’s motorcade on a road into the capital was identified from the remains of his face, which was blown nearly 300 yards from the pickup truck he detonated, one of two vehicles packed with explosives in the attack.

“It was found inside the courtyard of a nearby police station,” Mr. Ahmed said. He said witnesses told police the attackers all had small beards and long hair, and that the facial features of the man whose remains were found pointed to foreign involvement.

“It appears that he is not a Pakistani,” he said, without elaborating.

Fifteen persons, including the bombers, were killed and 46 wounded in the attack. Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayyat said several people had been detained for questioning.

Investigators also are interviewing witnesses to put together a profile of the attackers, and police have pieced together the model numbers of the pickups used in the attack. Mr. Ahmed told Pakistan’s Geo Television that witnesses saw at least one of the attackers reading a copy of the Koran, Islam’s holy book, before blowing himself up.

The 60-year-old president was unhurt in the attack, but the powerful explosions were close enough to crack the windshield on his armored limousine.

That attackers could get so close to the president so soon after the first attempt on his life signaled a serious security lapse a little more than a week before seven South Asian leaders are due to hold a summit meeting in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali said security would be “revamped” after the latest attack — which has increased speculation that somebody close to Gen. Musharraf might have been in on the planning.

Mr. Jamali insisted the Jan. 4-6 summit would go ahead as planned.

Gen. Musharraf is a key ally in the U.S.-led war on terrorism, and that support has earned him the wrath of homegrown Islamic militant groups as well as that of the al Qaeda leadership.

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