November 1999 News

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Rockets fired at US, UN offices in Pakistan

12 November 1999
The Hindustan Times
By Mubashir Zaidi and PTI

Islamabad: Flames billow from a burning United Nations jeep outside the US embassy building after the bomb blasts in Islamabad on Friday. At Least seven rockets launched from three stationary cars were fired by unidentified attackers in what appears to have been an attempt to blow up the US embassy, the American Cultural Centre and the offices of the United Nations in the Pakistan Capital’s high-security district today.

The rockets missed their targets but left nearly six persons, including a security guard at the American Centre, injured.

The attacks took place between 11.45 am and 11.48 am and considering that the targets were several kilometres apart, it was evidently a well coordinated effort. Many vehicles parked near the US embassy, the American Centre, the Saudi-Pak Tower that houses the UN offices and the State Bank of Pakistan were destroyed.

The attacks, described as “quite serious” by military ruler General Pervez Musharraf and subsequently condemned by his foreign office as an abominable act of terrorism, came about 48 hours before a UN deadline for the Taliban militia in Afghanistan to turn over suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden for trial. But within a couple of hours of the blasts, head of the ruling Afghan Taliban Mullah Moha-mmad Omar denounced them as “a conspiracy to sour relations with Islamabad and aggravate tension with the United Nations and the United States”.

The cars from which the rockets were launched were swiftly blown up, apparently through remote-control devices, by the attackers. Twin-barreled rocket launchers were discovered by the police in the wrecked cars.

The police said there were at least five blasts, including in the three cars that exploded into flames within minutes of the rockets being fired from them.

The bombs exploded at American Centre car parking, near US Embassy, at United Nations Office car parking, in front of a government office and near Punjab House while another bomb was detected and defused by the Bomb Disposal Squad at a busy Capital market. The first bomb exploded in the car parking area at the American Centre in Islamabad’s commercial area.

The bomb was planted in a Honda Civic bearing a government number plate. The other car that exploded near the US Embassy bore a United Nations number plate. The police have started investigations but so far no arrest has been made.

In Washington, reports AP, the White House spokesman David Leavy said: “We are certainly troubled by the violence and condemn in the strongest terms these attacks. Our embassy is reviewing the security situation and is in contact with the authorities in Pakistan. The exact details are still unclear and we do not now who is responsible.”

President Bill Clinton, who is considering a visit to Pakistan early next year, and has curtailed a stop this month in Greece over security concerns, is expected to make a statement later in the day.

In New Delhi, Joint Comm-issioner of Police R.K. Niyogi told PTI that security around the American embassy in the diplomatic enclave of Chanakyapuri has been beefed up following the rocket attacks that took place in Islamabad today.


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