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Pakistan: Police Close to Breaking Suicide Assassination Attempt Case - 2004-08-02

Pakistan's information minister says police are close to discovering who was behind last week's failed assassination attempt on the country's prime minister-designate.

Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed says investigators have uncovered promising leads about the identity of the attackers.

"We have arrested a few people for questioning, and I think, within 72 hours, maybe something positive will come out," he said.

He says the investigation involves identifying the suicide bomber, some of whose remains and clothing were reportedly recovered.

Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz, who has been named to serve as Pakistan's next prime minister, was returning from a political rally south of Islamabad on Friday when the suicide bomber tried to kill him.

The bombing was caught on videotape, and Mr. Ahmed says police are gathering clues from the footage.

A group calling itself the Islambouli Brigades of al-Qaida posted an Internet message Saturday claiming responsibility for the bombing.

Mr. Ahmed says authorities are not sure whether to believe the claim.

"Islambouli is a new organization," he said. "It's early to say about any confirmation."

The group is apparently named for Lieutenant Khalid al-Islambouli, an Egyptian military officer who led the 1981 assassination of then Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat.

Local reports Monday said among those detained for questioning were members of an outlawed extremist Sunni Muslim group whose leader was shot dead in Islamabad last year.

Mr. Ahmed refused to confirm any connection to the Pakistani group.

He also denied speculation that members of the Pakistani military were being questioned. Pakistan is offering a reward of more than $17,000 for information about those behind the bombing.