Musharraf escapes attempt on his life


Islamabad : Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf Friday morning narrowly escaped as anti-aircraft rounds fired by suspected Islamic militants missed his plane, officials said.

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The rounds were fired from a house near Chaklala military air base in Rawalpindi, when Musharraf's plane took off for the flood-affected southern city of Turbat in Balochistan province.

"We have recovered two anti-aircraft guns fixed at the rooftop of a suspected house," a police official told Deutsche Presse-Agentur from the scene on condition of anonymity, adding that blasts were heard at around 10.15 a.m. (05.15 GMT).

"We have also recovered more than two dozen casings of the rounds fired from the guns," he said.

Residents in the neighbourhood told police that they heard explosions from the house, presumably the sound of gunshot, and saw three people, including a woman, leaving the premises after the blasts.

"One of the guns were heavy and very sophisticated, similar to those used by Pakistani military," ARY news channel reported, citing sources.

Pakistan's military's chief spokesman dismissed the reports.

"The report is concocted, baseless and unfounded," Major General Waheed Arshad said in a statement.

He confirmed that, "the president is visiting the flood-affected areas of Balochistan and Sindh."

However, an eyewitness told DPA that the military investigators were using sniffer dogs to search the house located in Rawalpindi's area of Asghar Mall around 1 kilometre from the air base.

The house was located in a closed-end street that had been sealed off by the authorities, he said.

Musharraf, who joined the US in its war against terrorism after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, survived two assassination attempts within a fortnight in December 2003 when Al-Qaeda linked militants targeted his motorcade near a military headquarters in the garrison town of Rawalpindi.

On December 14, hi-tech jamming devices installed in Musharraf's limousine delayed an explosion by seven seconds allowing the president's convoy to cross a bridge that collapsed in the blast.

Similarly, 11 days later on December 25 two suicide bombers rammed their explosives-laden vehicles into Musharraf's motorcade just yards away from the site of previous attacks, killing some 16 people including members of the police escort.

A few hours after the bid on his life Musharraf appeared on the state-run Pakistan Television channel and in a composed tone said: "We are fighting against extremism. We will continue to fight. My faith in Allah (God) has strengthened, my resolve has increased."