Fri, Oct 06, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Musharraf's residence targeted

IN THE BUSHES Just a few hours after an explosion in a park, workers found two concealed rocket launchers whose target appeared to be the president's residence


A bomb disposal squad drives away what allegedly were two artillery shells in front of the Pakistani president's house yesterday in Islamabad.


Pakistani bomb disposal experts yesterday found and defused two rockets which were pointing towards President Pervez Musharraf's official residence in Islamabad, hours after a blast near his army home.

The rockets were fixed to launchers hidden in bushes at a building site about a kilometer from the presidency building in the capital, security officials said.

A mobile phone was attached by wires to both launchers, apparently for use as a remote launching device.

Officials said the site was also near to parliamentarians' lodgings in the capital.

"They were apparently pointing towards the presidency," one security official said on condition of anonymity.

"Luckily some laborers working at a construction site saw the rockets and reported it to police," the official added.

Police cordoned off the area in the city center where the rockets were found and security forces detained 80 people working at the building site for questioning, officials said.

The discovery came just hours after an explosion in a park near military ruler Musharraf's army residence in the garrison city of Rawalpindi late on Wednesday.

The blast in the city's Ayub Park caused no casualties but triggered panic and a major security clampdown in the bustling city, which adjoins Islamabad.

Chief military spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan said the blast "had nothing to do with the president or army house" but did not elaborate.

Sultan, who is also Musharraf's press secretary, said that some explosive material was found at the blast site and that police were investigating.

Police said they sent a bomb disposal team and search parties to the site.

One security official earlier said that the blast in Rawalpindi was caused by a rocket but senior authorities later denied this.

Officials also rejected newspaper reports claiming that a large quantity of unexploded material had also been found in the park.

"The explosive found was not in large quantity," a security official said.

"We have sent it for laboratory test to identify the type of explosive," the official said.

Security had been beefed up after the blast, Rawalpindi police chief Saud Aziz said.

"There was already a security alert because of Ramadan, it has been further stepped up now," he added.

General Musharraf, a key ally in the US' "war on terror," seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999.

He has survived two assassination attempts in Rawalpindi, both of which occured in December 2003.

In the first, militants blew up a bridge as his motorcade passed but Musharraf was saved when electronic jamming equipment in his car delayed the blast.

The second attempt on Christmas Day was a suicide attack linked to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network that left 14 people dead.

Musharraf has blamed Islamic militants, who are infuriated by his anti-extremist drives and allegedly pro-US policies.

The president is also deeply unpopular among radical Islamists, who have accused him of abandoning Afghanistan's Taliban rulers, curbing rebel incursions into Indian-administered Kashmir and initiating a ceasefire with Indian forces.

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