Pakistan: Suicide bombing in capital raises concerns about negotiating with militants
Marking the anniversary of a government operation against the radical Red Mosque, the attack suggests some militants are growing bolder.
A suicide bomber blew himself up in the heart of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, on Sunday, killing at least 15 and injuring dozens more. The attack has raised concerns about Pakistan's transition to civilian rule and the coalition government's policy of negotiating with militants in the region.Skip to next paragraph
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The bomber targeted police guarding a protest organized to mark the anniversary of a siege at the city's radical Red Mosque. During that operation in July 2007, 100 people were killed when government forces stormed and seized the mosque, which militant students and clerics had made their headquarters during a six-month-long campaign to enforce Islamic law.
During Sunday's protest, religious students called for President Pervez Musharraf, who had directed the mosque operation, to be publicly hanged. Bloomberg reported further on the sentiments that governed the event.
The rally represented part of a "jihad against America" that "will continue until the last drop of our blood," declared Shah Aziz, a cleric and former member of parliament.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but security officials told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that they were investigating the presence of banned Islamic extremist groups at Sunday's rally.
Pakistani security officials said they were focusing on the presence of some members of banned Islamic extremist groups, including Jaish-e-Mohammed and Sipah-e-Sihaba, at Sunday's rally to commemorate the 2007 raid.
"We have no firm leads but we are examining the possibility that some of these groups may have been involved or were in league with followers of Lal Masjid (Red Mosque)," a senior security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
A spokesman for Pakistan's main umbrella organization of Taliban militants, led by top commander Baitullah Mehsud, said he was not aware of any of the group's members having claimed responsibility.
"I am not in a position to indicate any claim of responsibility, I have not heard from any of our groups," spokesman Maulvi Omar told AFP by telephone from an unknown location.
President Pervez Musharraf condemned the attack and reiterated the government's commitment to root out terrorism in "all its forms and manifestations".
The White House also denounced the bombing, saying it was a "needless act of violence".
National security spokesman Gordon Johndroe said: "Extremists continue to show their disregard for all human life and their willingness to kill fellow Muslims. We will continue to stand with the people of Pakistan as they face this common enemy."