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Blasts hit Pak Shell stations
- Oil firm ‘shocked’

Karachi, May 15 (Reuters): Small bombs exploded at 18 Shell petrol stations in Karachi today, three days after suicide bombings on Western targets in Saudi Arabia killed 34 people.

Shell Pakistan said a customer, three station attendants and one security guard received minor injuries in the attacks, which began before dawn and hit 18 stations.

Police said there were no serious injuries or damage. Tariq Jameel, a deputy inspector general of police, said small devices packed into boxes were placed inside garbage bins at the stations and appeared aimed to scare. “The aim was to create panic and the target was Shell,” he said.

Pakistan’s main commercial city has seen a series of attacks against Western targets blamed on Islamic extremists in the past year. Police have rounded up suspects in recent months, including some suspected members of the al Qaida network.

Shell said it was “shocked and concerned” by the attacks and had taken steps to tighten security at all its facilities in Pakistan. Jameel said security had been tightened at all foreign business interests in Karachi.

Kashif Jalal, an official of the police bomb disposal squad, said the explosions were caused by time bombs, each weighing about 200 grams.

Sajjad, an employee at one of the stations, said a rubbish bin blew up with a large bang, smashing the glass of his kiosk. “My ears were numb for a couple of minutes,” he said.

Shell Pakistan, a subsidiary of Anglo Dutch giant Royal Dutch/Shell Group, is one of Pakistan’s biggest foreign-investment firms.

Past attacks in Karachi have been blamed on extremists enraged by Pakistan’s decision to back the US-led war on terror, launched after the September 11 attacks in 2001.

The violence has hurt Pakistan’s efforts to boost depressed foreign investment.

Al Qaida arrest

Pakistani authorities have arrested a foreign national suspected of links to the al Qaida network, intelligence officials said today. The arrest was made in an overnight raid on a hideout on the outskirts of the southern port city of Karachi during which a laptop computer and a satellite telephone were also seized, an intelligence official said on condition of anonymity.

He identified the man as Iffan-ul-Hassham and said he appeared to be an Arab, but could not confirm his nationality.

Pakistani authorities have recently intensified a crackdown on suspected al Qaida members and Pakistani supporters. Last week they reported the arrest of two Afghans, including a former Taliban official, for suspected al Qaida links and last month detained a Yemeni believed to have been involved in the October 2000 attack on US warship Cole in Yemen.

The Yemeni, Waleed Muhammed Bin Attash alias Khalid Al-Attash, was detained with five other al Qaeda suspects.

Pakistan became a key ally in the U.S.-led war on terror after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and says it has arrested more than 400 members of al Qaeda and Afghanistan's former Taliban regime in the past 18 months.

But it has been accused by Afghan officials of sheltering Taliban leaders responsible for cross-border attacks into Afghanistan. Pakistan was the main backer of the Taliban when it was in power.

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