Blasts Near US, UN Buildings in Pakistan Capital
(CNSNews.com) - A series of blasts occurred within minutes of each other Friday in the vicinity of American and United Nations offices in Pakistan's federal capital, Islamabad.
Although no group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, they came at a time of heightened tensions between Washington and the Taliban militia, which rules most of neighboring Afghanistan. UN sanctions are due to be imposed on the Taliban if it fails to hand over terror suspect Osama bin Laden by a Sunday deadline.
No serious injuries were reported, according to U.S. press attache Mark Wentworth, who was at the American Cultural Center when an explosion occurred outside.
"Some debris was flung into our compound," Wentworth told CNSNews.com, but he declined to comment further on any possible damage to the building.
Asked whether he had any idea who could be responsible, he would only say no one had yet claimed responsibility for the blasts.
At least four explosions occurred, according to reports from the Pakistan News Agency, and staff at the Dawn and News International newspapers.
One was apparently caused by the firing of a rocket near the U.S. Embassy. Another was from a bomb or rocket that exploded outside the American cultural center, housing the U.S. Information Service, library and other offices.
A third explosion occurred near the building housing United Nations agencies, and a fourth at a nearby Pakistan government office named as the Shaheed-i-Millat secretariat.
A bomb was found and defused inside a car parked alongside a market popular with locals and foreigners. According to reports, a rocket launchers and weapons were found in another vehicle.
Several vehicles were destroyed by blazes following the explosions.
Earlier this week Taliban leader Mohammed Omar warned Americans of unspecified retaliation if the UN went ahead and imposed sanctions against it.
In an open letter addressed to "the people of the United States," Omar urged Americans to "bring pressure on their government and ask them to cease hostility with us."
Should they not do so, he warned, "you will be surprised about what is coming to you and you will not be able to do anything about it."
It was not clear whether Omar was threatening human revenge or predicting divine retribution. His letter also attributed recent natural disasters in the U.S. to God, whom he said was "on the side of the just" and punished those not on the side of the just "with earthquake and storm."
A spokesman for the Taliban told CNSNews.com Tuesday the letter was "100 percent genuine" but declined to comment further.
Asked whether any response had been received from the U.S., he said "Nothing yet. They'll have to wake up first."
The U.S. has already imposed sanctions on the Taliban-ruled portion of war-ravaged Afghanistan. Sunday is the deadline for the imposition of United Nations sanctions, should the Taliban not hand over Bin Laden to the U.S. or a third country for trial.
The U.S. accuses Bin Laden of masterminding the twin bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998, and has placed a $5 million reward on his head.
The Saudi-born millionaire businessman turned militant heads an international Islamist network violently opposed to a U.S. military presence in the Middle East.
Last week Taliban officials said the U.S. had rejected several compromise proposals, including an offer to relocate Bin Laden to a secret destination outside Afghanistan, or have his fate decided by a panel of senior Islamic clerics.
The Taliban enforces a strict interpretation of Islamic law in the 90 percent of Afghanistan it controls, and is engaged in fighting against opposition forces in the remainder of the country.
Many Pakistanis are sympathetic to the Taliban, and Osama has become a popular name for newborn boys in the Muslim country.