Restaurant bomb in Pakistan capital kills Turkish woman, wounds 10

 

A powerful bomb blast ripped through an Italian restaurant in the Pakistani capital Islamabad on Saturday, killing a Turkish woman and wounding 10 other foreigners including US diplomats.

 

The explosion in the back garden of the popular Luna Caprese restaurant appeared to be the first to target foreigners amid a string of suicide and bomb attacks in the country blamed on Al Qaeda and Taliban militants.

 

"A Turkish woman who works with an NGO (non-governmental organisation) died in the blast," Islamabad police chief Shahid Nadeem Baluch told AFP, adding that 10 people of various nationalities were wounded.

 

Security officials said at least four Americans, two Japanese, one German, one Italian and one Canadian were hurt.

 

US embassy personnel were among those injured and were receiving medical treatment, embassy spokeswoman Kay Mayfield said, without providing further details.

 

In London, the British Foreign office said an employee of the British High Commission was "lightly injured."

 

Restaurant manager Shaukat Khan told AFP that a group of about a dozen 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, smashing crockery and window panes. People fell off their chairs, a leg, an arm, a foot were scattered around," Khan said.

 

"I heard loud cries for help and I saw guests lying on the ground covered in blood. Our owner, an Italian lady, was also covered in blood. All the wounded were foreigners."

 

The restaurant is one of the only eateries in Islamabad that serves alcohol.

 

Another restaurant employee, who gave his name only as Ashfaq, said a man was lying on the ground shouting, "Take me to the US embassy."

 

An AFP photographer at the scene said several of the injured who were taken out on stretchers were westerners. There was a large crater by the wall of the restaurant garden, the photographer said.

 

Interior ministry spokesman Brigadier Javed Cheema confirmed the toll.

 

"It was a bomb blast. We are trying to determine whether it was planted or a grenade thrown from outside," Cheema said.

 

The blast comes four days after two suicide bombs in the eastern city of Lahore, one of them targeting a police investigation headquarters, killed 27 people.

 

The attacks were the latest in a wave of Islamist-linked violence that has killed more than 600 people this year across Pakistan.

 

Pakistan has been combating an Islamist insurgency led by Al Qaeda and Taliban militants since Musharraf joined the US-led "war on terror" in 2001, but the violence has soared since the start of 2007.

 

The country has been rocked by six major blasts since the February 18 parliamentary polls, which were won by the opposition parties of the late Benazir Bhutto and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

 

Bhutto was killed in a suicide attack in the garrison city of Rawalpindi on December 27.

 

Musharraf on Tuesday summoned the new parliament to meet on March 17 -- finally setting up a showdown with his rivals that could potentially further destabilise the nuclear-armed nation. (AFP)

 

 

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