Foreigners' haunt bombed in capital: woman dead -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Foreigners’ haunt bombed in capital: woman dead

ISLAMABAD, March 15: Terrorists on Saturday night targeted a popular hang-out of foreign nationals, mostly western diplomats and journalists, by hitting the place with a powerful explosive device, killing a Turkish woman and injuring over a dozen guests who were having their weekend dinner.

The Turkish lady who died in the blast at Luna Caprese, an Italian restaurant, was believed to be a nurse working at a western embassy in Islamabad.

Among the injured brought to the local hospitals four were identified as US citizens, two were Japanese and one was a British national. A couple of Pakistani employees of the restaurant were also injured.

Hospital sources said some of the injured were taken away to a medical facility inside the diplomatic zone. However, doctors said among those admitted in the two local hospitals, two were still in a critical state.

Unlike some of the recent incidents of terrorism in which suicide bombers were involved, security officials said Saturday’s explosion was caused by a device planted near the outer wall of the restaurant.

The bomb went off around 8.40pm when a large number of foreigners were having their evening meal in the restaurant’s backyard garden.

This was also the first incident in Islamabad since 2002 in which foreign nationals were the direct target. Luna Caprese is one of the most popular places for Italian and other western cuisine, and is a favourite haunt of foreigners.

The owner of the restaurant had always maintained a low profile, and instead of having heavily armed guards, the outer gate was manned by untrained private guards.

The restaurant was situated in a house in Sector F-6, one of Islamabad’s upmarket areas. It is close to the Super Market, and opposite the Shaheen pharmacy.

Several people who were present in the super market described the explosion as deafening. One of them said the impact of the blast threw him on the ground, although he was standing on the pavement across the road.

“I think my ear drums have been damaged by the sound,” he told Dawn.

A journalist who was in the vicinity at the time of the explosion said initially most people were unable to figure out what was going on.

“But soon we saw a thick cloud of smoke loom up from a building on the other side of the road, and it was quite clear that an explosion has occurred inside Luna Caprese restaurant,” he said.

Liaquat Ali, one of the injured employees of the restaurant, told Dawn at the hospital bed that he was in the kitchen when the blast shook the place.

According to him, first there was a “mild blast”, which was followed by a “huge explosion”.

“There was complete chaos as people started to run in all directions,” he said.

Liauqat said he saw injured people lying on the ground, many with severed limbs.

A senior police official said an improvised device of low intensity had been used. “Had it been a high intensity device, the number of casualties would have been much higher.”

However, investigating officials said it had yet to be ascertained whether the explosive device had been planted in the backyard of the house or hurled by someone from outside.

Islamabad’s police chief Shahid Nadeem Baloch has constituted a police team to investigate the incident. Following the incident a state of “red alert” was declared in Islamabad.

Fears were being expressed in Islamabad about the explosion’s negative fallout on foreign nationals. A number of embassies have already issued advisories suggesting their nationals to stay away from public places.

Agencies add: US embassy personnel were among those injured and were receiving medical treatment, embassy spokeswoman Kay Mayfield said.

In London, the foreign office said an employee of the British High Commission was “lightly injured”.

Restaurant manager Shaukat Khan said that a group of 12 foreigners was eating in the garden at the back of the popular restaurant when the explosion happened, blowing human limbs into the air.

“I was preparing an order when a huge explosion knocked me down,” the manager said.
Source: Dawn
Date:3/16/2008