Pakistan’s President General Pervez Musharraf says a powerful bomb blast near his motorcade on Sunday night was an attempt by Islamic extremists to kill him. The explosion came hours after Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri arrived in Islamabad for a three-day state visit.
Pakistani authorities say the bomb blew up parts of a bridge just moments after President Pervez Musharraf’s convoy passed over it. He was returning to his home in the city of Rawalpindi near the capital, Islamabad, at the time. Officials say no one was hurt in the attack, but several people are being questioned.
No group has claimed responsibility for the alleged assassination attempt, which President Musharraf blamed on militant Islamic forces. He spoke to state-run Pakistan television shortly after the bombing.
“There was an explosion just half a minute or one minute after we crossed [the bridge],” said Mr. Musharraf. “I felt the explosion in my car. It was certainly a terrorist act, and certainly it was me who was targeted.”
President Musharraf took power in a coup in 1999. He is a close ally of the United States in the war on terrorism, which has angered some religious groups.
He has taken steps to eliminate extremist religious forces in Pakistan, including banning several Islamic groups.
President Musharraf says Sunday’s assassination attempt will not deter him from his crackdown on Islamic militants.
“It is these extremists, these terrorists, these militants who are out to not only damage our nation but bring [a] bad name to our great religion,” he said. “And I have always been saying that the greatest danger to our nation is not external. It is internal and it comes from religious and sectarian extremism.”
In October, a Pakistani court in the southern city of Karachi convicted three Islamic militants of trying to assassinate the president last year.
The three men belonged to Harkat-ul Mujahideen al-Almi militant group, which also is accused of planning last year’s suicide attack outside a U.S. consulate in Karachi, which killed 12 Pakistanis.
The bombing Sunday came only hours after Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri arrived in Islamabad on her first official visit to Pakistan.
The two leaders met Monday to discuss bilateral issues and efforts to fight terrorism. Pakistani officials say Mr. Musharraf and Ms. Megawati are expected to sign an agreement on counter-terrorism efforts during her three-day visit.