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Gunmen Attack Police in Karachi, Killing at Least 2 - 2004-06-10

In Pakistan, the army commander in the troubled city of Karachi is reported to have escaped an assassination attempt. The attack has left at least 10 people dead, mostly soldiers.

Reports say that unknown gunmen ambushed the motorcade of Lt. General Ashan Saleem Hayat in a busy part of Karachi in the early morning.

Witnesses say the heard intense firing followed by a large explosion that shattered windows of nearby shops and apartments.

A military spokesman in Karachi, Idrees Malik, denies reports the general was the target of the attack. "Well that is strongly denied," he says. "It basically was a fire attempt on to a police van, which was passing from a busy street [and] in the vicinity we also had a vehicle passing by the same route, which also came under fire."

The spokesman says it was a coincidence that the military convoy was passing at the time of the attack. It took place on a road used daily by top military and other security officials. No one has claimed responsibility.

The city mayor, Niamatullah Khan, has condemned the attack as a terrorist act. "I think these incidents of terrorism are not only aimed at destroying Karachi but also aimed at destroying Pakistan," he says. "And we hope to beef up and strengthen our intelligence networking system."

The largest Pakistani city has been the scene of deadly terrorist attacks in recent weeks. The violence has killed more than 60 people in the past month. Authorities blame Islamic extremists for most of the attacks in Karachi, the commercial capital of Pakistan.

Islamic militants linked to the al-Qaida terror network are also blamed for two attempts to assassinate President and army chief General Pervez Musharraf in the garrison town of Rawalpindi in December.

Pakistan is a key U.S. ally in the war on terrorism. Religious extremists in the country are opposed to this policy.

The violence in Karachi coincides with a fresh round of fighting between the military and al-Qaida linked militants near the border with Afghanistan. The fighting in the tribal region began Wednesday and officials say at least 20 suspected terrorists have been killed, some of them foreigners. Locals say more than a dozen government soldiers have also been killed.