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Pakistani Officials Continue Investigation into Musharraf Assassination Attempt - 2003-12-26


Pakistan has declared a national day of thanksgiving Friday after two suicide bombers failed in their attempt to assassinate the country's president. Officials say they now have leads into the identities of those responsible for the attack, which killed 15 people.

Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat told the Pakistani Senate that investigators have identified the remains of the two bombers in the attempt on President Pervez Musharraf's life Thursday.

Mr. Hayat says authorities also believe they know the group or groups responsible for the attack.

"At this juncture, I would only want to say that we are aware of the people, of the nature of people, who have been involved in this case," he said.

The two bombers, driving separate cars, blew themselves up near the presidential convoy as it passed through Rawalpindi, twin city to the capital Islamabad.

While details of the investigation are being kept secret, local reports say militants from outside of Pakistan are believed to have been involved.

Retired Pakistani General Talat Masood says the al-Qaida terror network, blamed for the attacks on the United States in September of 2001, could very possibly be involved.

He notes threats issued by one of al-Qaida's leaders, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

"They [al-Qaida] gave a warning, and al-Zawahiri, he's released certain tapes in which he gave a clear warning to Musharraf, and asked the people - exhorted them - to rise against him," he said.

President Musharraf has not speculated on the identity of the attackers, but says the attempt is likely linked to his government's fight against religious militancy in Pakistan.

He says the perpetrators have offended not only Pakistan, but also Islam.

"They certainly are not Muslims," he said. "They may be calling themselves Muslims, but I think they are the enemies of Islam."

The incident follows a December 14 attempt on President Musharraf, in which a remote-controlled bomb placed just 500 meters from the site of Thursday's attack failed to explode as the president's motorcade drove past.

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