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Musharraf Promises Creation of Anti-Terror Unit - 2002-03-20

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has promised to create new anti-terrorist units to counter growing religious and political violence. The move comes after a deadly attack on the Protestant International Church in Islamabad on Sunday, that left five people dead and 40 others injured - most of them foreigners.

President Musharraf has criticized the security lapse that allowed Sunday's grenade attack on the church. He has fired the capital city's police chief and four other senior police officials for providing inadequate security to the church, which is attended mostly by families of diplomats.

Pakistan's Information Minister, Nisar Memon, says the President chaired a weekly meeting of his Cabinet, on Wednesday, where he announced further steps to improve the security. "President Pervez Musharraf Wednesday underlined the revamping of the intelligence institutions, strengthening of vigilance, improvement in investigation and effective and expeditious prosecution of cases to combat incidents of terrorism that have surfaced in the country," he said. "He said special units are being created within the national security organizations to deal with the menace."

No one has claimed responsibility for the grenade attack on the church, which killed a Pakistani, an Afghan and the wife and teenage daughter of an American diplomat. The bodies of the two American women were flown to the United States on Wednesday.

The identity of the fifth victim remains unknown. Police believe it may be the attacker. Those injured in the incident include families of diplomats from countries including Britain, Germany, Canada, Australia, and the United States.

The church attack is widely seen as a reaction to Pakistan's crackdown on Islamic militants and its support for the U.S.- led war on terrorism in Afghanistan. Information Minister Memon says it could be the work of the Al-Qaida terrorist network or its supporters. He says the government is planning another crackdown on the Islamic extremists. "We intend to face with courage and determination reactions of certain terrorist groups to the country's policy against terror and terrorism," he said. "The President declared in the meeting that these terrorists deserved no sympathy and needed to be dealt with firmly and mercilessly albeit judiciously."

Mr. Memon says police have identified some Islamic groups that could be responsible for the deadly church attack, but refused to give details. The information minister says Pakistan will receive U.S. and Japanese help in the form of equipment and training to fight terrorists.