On Monday, media outlets reported that a car bomb exploded outside the Danish Embassy in Islamabad. The death count so far varies across news sources – the latest Associated Press newswire reported that at least five people have been killed so far in the blast, while Reuters put the number dead at six. Both the AFP and The News reported that the death toll has risen to at least eight people, adding that nearly 30 have been injured. The AFP added, “The blast left a huge crater outside the embassy, damaging the building and a nearby development agency. Dozens of cars were wrecked by the force of the explosion and some were on fire.” Most news sources reporting on the attack framed the incident in light of the Danish cartoon controversy, noting that Denmark had recently downgraded their embassy and moved out most of their foreign staff “due to threats linked to a furore over the reproduction in Danish media in February of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).”
Although the bombing was noted as “the second effort to target foreigners in Islamabad in the last few months,” [the last involved the blast at the Italian restaurant, Luna Caprese], the NY Times cited a senior Western diplomat who said, “The attack Monday was the first time that a foreign embassy had been targeted in Islamabad in recent years.” The news agency also quoted Helle Thorning Schmidt, leader of the Danish opposition party, the Social Democrats, who called on the Pakistani government to take immediate action, noting, “We expect the Pakistani government to do everything in its power to arrest and to prosecute the guilty ones. The terrorist can not be allowed to get away with their cowardly acts.”
Although no group has so far claimed responsibility for the bombing, the AP recalled an April 21 video of Al Qaeda‘s second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in which he called for attacks on Danish targets in response to the caricatures of the Prophet. Intercenter quoted Zawahiri as saying, “I urge and incite every Muslim who can harm Denmark to do so in support of the Prophet, God’s peace and prayers be upon him, and in defense of his honorable stature.”
The NY Times noted that one foreigner has been killed so far, but noted that their nationality has not been released. However, it looks that more Pakistani civilians were killed and injured in the blast. CHUP will continue to update this post with information as it comes in.
UPDATE [1000 EST]: According to the Associated Press, while Pakistani officials condemned the blasts, they did not want to stop peace talks with militants, insisting that they are not talking to “terrorists” but rather militants willing to lay down their weapons. The Interior Ministry chief, Rehman Malik, told the news agency, “There is no question of any impact of this incident on the peace process, but of course it badly harmed our image in the world.” The AP added, “Officials said at least six people – including two policemen – were killed and 35 people were wounded in the blast. The only foreign national reported hurt was a Brazilian woman working at the Danish Embassy.” The Norweigan and Swedish governments immediately closed their embassies in Islamabad following the blast, which officials noted was a car bomb, although it is still not clear whether it was a suicide bombing, or whether the explosives were detonated remotely.
UPDATE [1645 EST]: An updated AP wire reported, “The attacker apparently used a fake diplomatic license plate to get the car near the embassy, according to authorities, who were investigating whether it was a suicide attack. Interior Secretary Kamal Shah said evidence indicated the car was a Toyota Corolla carrying 55 pounds of explosives.” Although the bombing aimed to target a foreign embassy, the dead included two Pakistani policemen, a cleaner and a handyman employed by the embassy. The Danish foreign minister noted that one of the dead “may have held a Danish passport, but did not elaborate.”