ISLAMABAD, June 2: A car- bomb exploded outside the Danish embassy in one of the most high-security residential districts on Monday, killing eight people and injuring more than 25 others.

The blast severely damaged several buildings, destroyed dozens of vehicles and left a big crater on the road, indicating that the bomb had been fitted to a vehicle.

Investigators were unable to say whether the bomb was remote-controlled, a time device or detonated by a suicide bomber.

Most of the victims were Pakistani nationals, including lower staff personnel.

An embassy worker was among the dead and three were hurt.

After the explosion, police arrested two men found loitering near the embassy.

Denmark and Norway closed their embassies after the tragedy.

Police said a white Toyota car bearing a diplomatic registration plate entered Street 21 of F-6/2 from Street 19 around 1pm. Only the driver was in the vehicle.

Security personnel manned both ends of the street and put up barricades to search vehicles and stop unauthorised people from entering it, but they allowed the vehicle to pass without a search.

It blew up immediately after passing the embassy’s gate.

The blast left a crater more than four feet deep and with a radius of five feet in the middle of the road, about four metres away from the gate.

The perimeter walls of the embassy and the office of the UN-backed Devolution Trust for Community Development across the road collapsed and their metal gates were blown inward. Extensive damage was caused to the DTCD building and vehicles parked in its premises.

Windowpanes, masonry and dozens of wrecked vehicles littered the area, which also houses some other embassies, including Ukraine’s, and residences of the Indian high commissioner, Dutch ambassador and Australian defence attache.

At the time of the attack, very few employees were present inside the embassy.

The bodies and the injured were taken to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences and Federal Government Services Hospital.

Amir Nasim, Shahid Hussain, Zafar Iqbal, Mazhar Mehmood, Mohammed Nasir, Amin Shoukat, Shahid and an unidentified person were killed.

More than 20kgs of explosives were used. The car turned into a mangled heap of metal, scattering pieces over a wide area. The engine was found in Street 18, 15-20 metres away from the spot.

Witnesses said they saw blood, smoke, burning trees and debris in the air.

Interior Secretary Syed Kamal Shah told journalists that a team had been constituted to investigate the incident.

“We have asked the embassy to share evidence, including recordings of CCTV cameras,” he said.

According to sources, intelligence agencies had informed the interior ministry and police a few days ago that terrorists might target the embassy in retaliation for publication of sacrilegious cartoons in Danish newspapers.

This was the second attack on a foreign target in the capital this year, the earlier being a grenade attack on an Italian restaurant in March in the same area.

WILD SPECULATION: There were speculations that the target of the attack was not the Danish embassy, but the motorcade of President Pervez Musharraf and the vehicle had tried twice to enter the Margalla Road, which was used as the VVIP route.

The president attended a ceremony at the National Defence College and stayed there from 11am to 1pm. He was taken to the presidency in a helicopter after the explosion, sources said.

The crime scene also raised the question as to why the attacker had not rammed the vehicle into the embassy’s building or gate and had blown it up after passing the gate. The blast caused more damage to the DTCD building than the embassy.

Some officials said the position of the vehicle showed that the driver might have wanted to turn to Street 18 to use Street 22 to go to the Margalla Road, which the VVIP motorcade was about to cross. However, police officials, when contacted, denied that the VVIP motorcade was the target.

APP adds: Adviser to the Prime Minister on Interior Affairs, Rehman Malik, said results of preliminary investigation by the joint team comprising officials of the Federal Investigation Agency, police and intelligence agencies would come out in 24 hours.

He told a TV channel that there was no tip-off of any suicide bomber entering Islamabad.

He said the casualties included two police personnel and a foreigner.

The Foreign Office asked the security agencies to strengthen safety measures at embassies and ensure protection of diplomatic staff.

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