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Pakistani President Narrowly Escapes Attack - 2003-12-15


Pakistani authorities say a powerful bomb explosion damaged a bridge Sunday just moments after President Musharraf's convoy passed over it. They say no one was hurt in the blast, which took place in the garrison city of Rawalpindi near the capital, Islamabad.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

A military spokesman, Major-General Shaukat Sultan told VOA that President Musharraf is safe and sound. "President Musharraf's convoy had crossed the bridge when this explosion took place. It's clearly a terrorist activity. Whether it is an assassination attempt or not that can be said only after the investigations. And at this moment it is difficult to pinpoint the responsibility on any one," he said.

President Musharraf took power in a military coup in 1999, and is a close ally of the United States in the war on terrorism.

The Pakistani leader has taken concrete steps in recent years to eliminate extremist religious forces in Pakistan, including banning of several Islamic groups in the country.

In October, a Pakistani court in the southern city of Karachi convicted three Islamic militants for a failed attempt to assassinate President Musharraf last year.

The three men belonged to Harkat-ul Mujahideen al-Almi militant group, which also is accused of planning last years suicide attack outside the American consulate in Karachi that killed 12 Pakistani nationals.

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