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London Free Press Business Section:


Militants blamed for Pakistan blast

AP   2004-01-16 03:36:22  

KARACHI, PAKISTAN -- A car bomb exploded outside a Christian Bible society facility in southern Pakistan yesterday, leaving 15 people injured and damaging the wall of a nearby church, officials said. The attack in the port city of Karachi occurred after police received an anonymous phone call warning the Pakistan Bible Society would be targeted, police said.

Shortly after officers arrived, assailants in a car drove up and lobbed a small explosive device at them.

Fifteen minutes later, a bomb hidden in a nearby parked car exploded, police said.

Twelve people, among them six police and paramilitary officers, were injured, said Seemi Jamali, a doctor at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center, where many victims were taken.

Syed Kamal Shah, the chief of police of Sindh province, of which Karachi is the capital, said 15 people were injured in the explosions.

Police have released sketches of two male suspects based on a witness's account.

Television footage showed twisted metal and shattered glass littering the street, near many of Karachi's upscale hotels.

"We were investigating the first explosion when the second explosion occurred. It was a sudden and huge explosion," said Mohammed Iqbal, a deputy superintendent of the Rangers, a paramilitary force.

Iqbal spoke from his hospital bed, where he was being treated for shrapnel wounds.

Shahbaz Bhatti, the head of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, said the attack had raised concerns across the country.

"This terrorist act has increased the sense of insecurity among Christians," he said.

"These people are hell bent on creating anarchy in the country."

Pakistan's Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed blamed Islamic militants.

"The noose is tightening around them, therefore they are carrying out these activities," he said.

Police have meanwhile arrested "more than a dozen" suspected Islamic militants for investigation into a failed Dec. 25 bid to assassinate President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a government aide said.

"The men belong to various militant groups. They are in police custody. They are being questioned about the attack," Ahmed said.

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