U.S. Citizens Among Casualties of Restaurant Bomb Attack in Pakistan
March 15, 2008, Associated Press
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan —
A bomb exploded in the back garden of an Italian restaurant popular with foreigners in Pakistan's capital Saturday night, killing a Turkish woman and wounding 11, police said.
Personnel from the U.S. and British embassies were among the injured. It appeared to be the first attack targeting foreigners in a recent wave of violence in Pakistan.
Pakistani Interior Secretary Kamal Shah confirmed the Turkish woman's death. A police officer at the scene initially told reporters that two people had died, but Shah and the city police chief later said there was only one fatality.
Officials said the bomb was planted in the garden or thrown over a nearby wall of the Luna Caprese restaurant.
The blast rang out across downtown Islamabad around 8:45 p.m. local time. The restaurant was crowded with a group of Americans and Chinese nationals, said restaurant employee Hagi Mal.
"I was working in the kitchen when the blast took place on the lawn. Something hit me on the shoulder," Mal said.
Fire engines and police raced to the scene, which was littered with blood and debris. A man's shoe lay in a pile of rubble.
Local television footage showed a wounded man, looking dazed, rushing past the camera with blood streaming from his forehead.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy was unable to say how many embassy personnel were among the injured or detail their conditions.
"There were U.S. Embassy personnel among the injured. They are receiving medical treatment and their families are being notified," spokeswoman Kay Mayfield said.
The British Foreign Office reported that a staff member from the British High Commission had been "lightly injured" in the blast. The man was being treated in a hospital, a spokesman for the foreign office said, speaking anonymously in line with department policy.
After inspecting the destruction, city police chief Shahid Nadeem Baloch told reporters that 11 people were wounded: eight foreigners and three Pakistanis, a couple dining and a waiter. He gave no further details of their identities.
"There is a crater in the ground which suggests that it was a planted bomb, but we need to investigate further," Baloch said.
Zahid Janjua, a student at the city's International Islamic University, was dining nearby at another restaurant. He helped bring victims to waiting ambulances, staining his clothes with their blood.
"It was chaos. Broken tables and chairs lay scattered across the lawn. There were eight or nine people lying injured and crying for help," he said.
The bomb struck two days before Pakistan's new parliament was set to convene Monday. On Tuesday, two suicide bombings killed 24 people and wounded more than 200 in the eastern city of Lahore.
With such attacks on the rise, a growing number of Pakistanis are questioning U.S.-backed President Pervez Musharraf's approach to countering Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Musharraf's opponents say punitive military action has only fueled the violence.
The winning parties in last month's parliamentary elections have pledged to form a new counterterrorism strategy when they form a new coalition government next week.