07/07/2008, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Suicide attack against Red Mosque targets policemen

by Qaiser Felix
Blast comes at the end of a conference by Islamic radicals. Suicide bomber kills 15 policemen, injuring 40 more, including passers-by, some seriously. Radical Muslims condemn Musharraf, pledge holy war against US and NATO in Afghanistan, and want to impose Sharia in Pakistan.
Islamabad (AsiaNews) – Pakistani investigators are collecting evidences on Monday in the wake of a suicide bombing in the capital city. The blast targeted a crowd of policemen guarding the rally by thousands of hard-line Islamists near the radical Lal Masjid (Red Mosque).

At least 15 policemen and two other people were killed and more than 40 injured. The suicide attack happened near Melody Market on Sunday night after the conclusion of the “Lal Masjid Shuhada (martyrs) Conference” held to observe the first anniversary of the military operation against the mosque and Islamic seminary.

The attack took place at around 7:45 pm (local time) and it was heard miles away. It is considered a revenge action for the operation against Lal Masjid in which at least 103 people, including 95 alleged militants or madrassah students, were killed in July last year.

Eyewitnesses said that blood and human limbs were scattered at the site on Sadar Road near the Market. The smell of explosive and burnt bodies engulfed the area which was cordoned off by security forces.

“It was a suicide bombing in which the attacker targeted security personnel,” said Rehman Malik, adviser to the prime minister on internal affairs.

Mr Malik said that based on eyewitness accounts, the attacker was a man who appeared to be “35-37-years-old”.

“We are in a state of war and time has come for the people to expel anti-state elements from their ranks,” he added.

Malik said the investigators had seized batteries on the suicide vest used in the attack and limbs of the bomber. “The blast was an attempt to de-stabilise the country,” he insisted.

When asked if the attack had been carried out to avenge last year’s Lal Masjid operation, the adviser said it would be premature to say anything.

He also announced an Rs 5 million reward for anyone who can help identify the suicide bomber who carried out the attack. Victims’ families will each receive Rs 300,000 in compensation.

Last year government forces besieged the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) for days, where Islamic radicals had set up a base to organise raids against ‘immoral people and blasphemers’. The authorities stormed the mosque on 10 July 2008, sparking a wave of suicide attacks across the country, blamed on Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants.

For their part speakers at “Lal Masjid Shuhada (martyrs) Conference” accused Musharraf of ordering the mosque crackdown at America’s bidding. All hands went up in favour of a proposal that Musharraf must be hanged for ordering the military operation.

They also vowed to wage jihad against US and NATO forces (in Afghanistan) and reiterated their goal of imposing Islamic law on the country.

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