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Al Qaida link in attempt on Aziz

Islamabad, July 31 (Reuters): Pakistani investigators sought today to identify a suicide bomber from his bloodied head after a failed assassination attempt on Prime Minister-designate Shaukat Aziz.

Police have yet to blame any group. But a previously unknown group claiming to be linked to al Qaida said it had carried out the attack against one of the men of the “American infidel in Pakistan”, and threatened more attacks.

Aziz, 55, currently the finance minister, escaped unhurt in yesterday’s attack near Fateh Jung, in the central province of Punjab, where he was campaigning for a by-election.

Police found a grenade at the scene of attack, which killed Aziz’s driver and six others, and wounded at least 45 people. The body of the attacker was blown into several pieces. Police have found his head, hands, legs and mutilated parts of his torso, and say he was clearly a strong, well-built man.

“His face has been damaged, but it is still intact,” Zafar Iqbal, senior superintendent of police, said. “The bomber was a young man in his early twenties.”

After his near escape, political colleagues said Aziz recounted to them how a bearded man had run up against the driver’s door of his car and blown himself up.

“We have found an unexploded hand grenade at the site,” Iqbal said. “Apparently the suicide bomber was carrying it with other explosives. The bomb disposal squad has defused it.”

The attack on Aziz, which came the day after Pakistan announced the arrest of a top al Qaida suspect, underlines the grave challenge posed by shadowy Islamic groups furious over their government’s support for the US-led “war on terrorism”.

President Pervez Musharraf, who is leading the drive against extremists, has himself survived at least three assassination attempts, most recently a suicide car bombing on December 25.

The previously unknown Islambouli Brigades of al Qaida said in a statement posted on an Islamist website today the attack was a message to the “treacherous” Musharraf. “Yesterday’s attack will be followed by more painful blows if you do not stop blindly obeying the orders of that lowlife Bush,” it said.

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