ISLAMABAD, June 3 – Pakistani Taliban militants likely carried out a suicide attack on the Danish embassy in Islamabad in revenge for controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, officials said Tuesday.
But the car bombing on Monday, which killed at least six people, was believed to be a one-off and would not scupper peace talks between the Islamist rebels and Pakistan’s new government, a senior government official said.
Security officials said a stolen car with fake diplomatic plates was used in the bombing and that the explosives were of a type used in previous attacks attributed to Taliban militants in a tribal region bordering Afghanistan.
"It appears to be a one-off attack which has little relevance to the ongoing negotiations between Taliban and the authorities," the government official told AFP.
"This attack was not born out of the events in the country or the region, rather it was part of global outrage in the Islamic world against publishing blasphemous cartoons," the official said.
One Danish citizen of Pakistani origin and two Pakistani employees were among the dead in the blast that badly damaged the embassy and the offices of UN-backed aid agency, officials in Copenhagen said.
Danish newspapers first published the cartoons in 2005, sparking violent protests in Pakistan and some other Muslim countries. Several dailies reprinted the sketches in February this year.
The Danish embassy, located outside Islamabad’s secure diplomatic enclave, was recently downgraded and embassy staff were relocated.
A joint team of investigators has been set up, including of police, the special investigation unit of the Federal Intelligence Agency and Pakistani intelligence services, to probe the blast, the government official said.
A senior security official said the bomb contained at least 25 kilograms of the same type of explosive used in a massive suicide bombing at FIA’s offices in the eastern city of Lahore in March.
That attack was blamed on Pakistani Taliban militants, who agreed to talks with the government after parties allied to US-backed anti-terror ally President Pervez Musharraf were trounced in elections in February.
The top Taliban commander, Baitullah Mehsud, has denied accusations by the former government that he orchestrated the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto in December and had links to Al-Qaeda.
Osama bin Laden’s extremist network has made recent calls for attacks on Danish targets because of the cartoons.
The preparations for the Danish blast were "meticulous, similar to previous attacks by Taliban linked to Al-Qaeda" and involved a car stolen from the northwestern city of Peshawar, the security official said.
However the attack itself was "poorly executed" and the bomb went off several metres (yards) from the gate of the embassy, they said.
Security officials warned however that the attack showed the Taliban network remained intact and exposed the problems that lie ahead "in case of reopening of hostilities between the government and the militants."
Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen slammed the bombing as a "horrible, cowardly crime," telling reporters that his government would not give in to terrorists and would maintain its foreign and security policies.
US President George W. Bush condemned the bombing and offered his condolences to the victims, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said. Pakistan has been a key ally in Washington’s "war on terror" since 2001.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon denounced the attack and "reiterates his total rejection of such acts of terrorism," his press office said in a statement.
The UN Security Council unanimously condemned the bombing in a non-binding statement.