Pakistan's Musharraf survives new assassination attempt
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Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, who is currently on trial for treason, narrowly escaped an assassination attempt as a bomb went off along a route on which his convoy was due to pass early on Thursday, police said.
The bomb was planted along a road Musharraf was due to take from a Rawalpindi army hospital, where he has been staying since January, to his home on the outskirts of Islamabad and went off at around 2am (9pm GMT Wednesday).
Nobody was injured and there have so far been no claims of responsibility.
"Four kilograms of explosive device planted in a pipeline under a bridge exploded around 20 minutes before the former president was supposed to cross the spot," senior police official Liaqat Niazi said.
Niazi said the former president was then taken home via an alternative route. Musharraf had been staying at the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC) in the garrison city of Rawalpindi since taking ill with a heart condition in January.
The blast occurred at the Faizabad interchange, which lies at the boundary of the two cities.
Muhammad Naeem, a spokesman for the Islamabad police, said a bomb disposal squad had cordoned off the area after the blast and searched for additional explosives.
"Nobody was injured in the blast," he said, adding Musharraf was the intended target.
Musharraf, who led Pakistan after seizing power in a 1999 coup until 2008, returned from self-imposed exile in March last year to run in general elections, but was barred from taking part and has faced a series of legal cases including treason.
The Taliban has also vowed to send a squad of suicide bombers to kill him, and security threats have prevented him from appearing at all but two of his treason hearings.
It was the fourth attempt on the ex-general's life, with the first three occurring while he was in office.
A special court indicted Musharraf for treason on Monday in what was seen as a milestone for civilian authority in a country long dominated by the army.
The charges relate to Musharraf's 2007 imposition of emergency rule, which came as the Supreme Court was due to rule on the validity of his re-election as president.
Treason carries the maximum penalty of death, but some analysts were sceptical whether the government would allow the trial to be seen through to its completion and risk a greater clash with the military.
Musharraf had also sought permission to leave the country to see his ailing mother in the United Arab Emirates, leading to renewed speculation that a deal, which would allow all sides to save face, was imminent.
But the government on Wednesday refused to end a travel ban preventing Musharraf from leaving the country.
"The interior ministry has sent a written reply to Musharraf refusing to lift travel bans as there are a number of cases against him," an official of the interior ministry told AFP.
Ahmad Raza Kasuri, a member of his legal team, told reporters that Musharraf had discharged himself from the military hospital.
"He left the AFIC at his own request and was with his son Bilal," he said.
Thursday's attack echoed the first major attempt on Musharraf's life in December 2003, when a powerful bomb went off minutes after his highly guarded convoy crossed a bridge in Rawalpindi.
A few days later he survived another attempt by two suicide bombers that left 16 people dead.
In July 2007 an unknown group fired a 7.62 submachine gun at Musharraf's plane as it took off from a runway, also in Rawalpindi.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
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