Pakistani authorities have reconstructed the severed head of the suicide bomber who killed seven people near President Pervez Musharraf’s office as a probe was opened to determine who was behind the blast, police said today.
Meanwhile the country’s top court set a preliminary hearing for tomorrow on the deadly failed attempt on ex-premier Benazir Bhutto’s life earlier this month.
Pakistan, a key ally of the US in its war on terror, has been rocked by a string of suicide attacks, mostly blamed on Islamic extremists, since Musharraf cracked down on militants near the Afghan border in July.
The most recent attack came yesterday when three police officers and four civilians were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up less than 500 yards from Musharraf’s office, deepening instability and insecurity before crucial elections.
Surgeons had “reconstructed” the severed head of the attacker, said Saud Aziz, police chief of Rawalpindi, where the attack took place.
“We are trying to determine the identity of the attacker. We will release his sketch soon,” Aziz said.
Officials say the attacker detonated his explosives when police stopped him at a checkpoint near Musharraf’s heavily-guarded office in Rawalpindi, a garrison city just south of the capital Islamabad.
Musharraf was safely inside Army House – but the blast was clearly heard there, said presidential spokesman Rashid Qureshi. No one has claimed responsibility.
The attack came two weeks after the October 18 suicide bombing of Bhutto’s homecoming parade, which killed more than 140 people in Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi.
The former premier says the threats to her life would not derail her campaigning for January parliamentary elections.
Bhutto said yesterday that she would visit Rawalpindi on November 9, but that she would no longer hold processions like the one attacked two weeks ago.
The government acknowledges the border area near Afghanistan has become a haven for Taliban militants and the US fears al Qaida might be using it to plot new attacks.
Last week, authorities sent troops to tackle pro-Taliban militants in the north-western district of Swat. Officials say four days of violence there left about 100 people dead.
Some 5,000 tribesmen rallied yesterday to demand a halt to military operations against militants in the north west.
Musharraf is widely expected to join Bhutto in a US-friendly alliance after January parliamentary elections. But their emerging coalition must survive a number of legal challenges that are being considered by the Supreme Court.