June 3, 2008 in Nation/World

Deadly bomb blast strikes Danish Embassy in Pakistan

Kim Barker Chicago Tribune
Associated Press photo

A Pakistani security official stands amid the rubble of the adjacent building and cars after a bomb explosion outside the Danish Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan on Monday. Associated Press
(Full-size photo)

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – A powerful car bomb exploded just outside the Danish Embassy on Monday afternoon, killing at least six people and raising questions about the lack of security for the embassy, which has been under threat since Danish newspapers published controversial cartoons about the Prophet Muhammad.

The blast ended almost three months of calm in the restive country’s capital, the same day that security was supposed to be tight. The army was deployed Monday in Islamabad as President Pervez Musharraf drove to the capital from his home in neighboring Rawalpindi. After the blast, the convoy of Musharraf, himself the target of three assassination attempts, immediately left the city.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but al-Qaida leaders – thought to be hiding along the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan – have threatened Danish and other European targets recently because of the cartoons.

Analysts said the attack was aimed not just at the Danish but at the new Pakistani government, which has been trying to sign peace deals with militants since winning office in February.

“This is also meant for destabilizing the government,” said retired Gen. Talat Masood, a security analyst, adding that the security was lax on Monday afternoon.

The Toyota Corolla packed with explosives was able to pull up right next to the embassy, about 1 p.m., a time when the power is always out in the neighborhood because of electricity rationing.

Police said they did not know whether the attack was a suicide blast or set off by remote control. The powerful blast – one of the strongest that the capital has seen – sent the car’s engine flying 50 yards and the gear shaft about 1,000 yards. It rattled windows more than a mile away, blew a crater in the street about 8 feet wide and 4 feet deep, destroyed the wall outside the embassy and wrecked at least 25 cars.

The blast killed at least two police officers and two guards, officials said. The deputy commissioner of Islamabad said the death toll was four, but various news agencies reported six fatalities and paramedics said eight people had died, including a little girl, whose body lay in the street.

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