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Devices on limo saved Musharraf's life
( 2003-12-18 10:43) (Agencies)

High-tech jamming devices saved Pakistan's president from an assassination attempt, delaying by a few crucial seconds the detonation of a bomb that targeted his motorcade, intelligence officials told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

As investigators continued their probe into the attack, the government vowed to root out extremism, amid suspicions that al-Qaida or homegrown Islamic militants opposed to Pakistan's support of the U.S.-led war on terrorism were behind the bombing.

Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf was riding in a limousine through the city of Rawalpindi when the blast occurred Sunday evening, ripping through a concrete bridge just after he crossed it.

The bombing was at least the second attempt on Musharraf's life since he took power in a bloodless coup four years ago.

The sophisticated bomb ! initially estimated to contain 550 pounds of explosives ! was believed to include both a remote control and a timing device to trigger it, two intelligence officials told AP.

Jamming equipment in Musharraf's limousine stopped the timer for about a minute and also jammed the remote control, the officials said.

"It was enough time for Musharraf to cross the bridge," one of the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The jammers emit a magnetic impulse to block frequencies used to trigger bombs ! including the electronic signals from precision timers. Defense analyst Talat Masood said that security agencies worldwide use such equipment, and it had been imported to Pakistan.

Musharraf said he heard and felt the blast between 30 seconds and a minute after he crossed the bridge. There were no injuries as the bridge was blocked to traffic to let his motorcade pass.

On Tuesday, he made a 20-minute visit to the wrecked bridge, about 10 miles from the capital of Islamabad, officials said.

In Washington, the U.S. government offered to help Pakistani officials investigate the attack and said U.S. President Bush had been fully briefed on what happened.

"President Musharraf is someone that has worked very closely with us in the war on terrorism, and it's another indication that that war continues, and we must confront it everywhere," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

Musharraf riled Islamic hard-liners by reversing Pakistan's support for the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks ! and just before the United States led a military campaign there to defeat the Taliban regime that had hosted al-Qaida and its leader, Osama bin Laden.

After Sunday's bombing, Musharraf said homegrown religious extremists were most likely behind it, although the sophistication of the bombing has fueled suspicions that outside terrorist groups took part.

Asked if al-Qaida could have been involved, Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayyat was quoted as saying Wednesday by the Associated Press of Pakistan, "I will not rule out any possibility at this stage."

He said Pakistan's security agencies were working "overtime" to counter terrorist threats.

"We have to take our fight against extremism and intolerance to its logical conclusion without any compromise ... We have to uproot extremism from our society," Hayyat said.

Some in Pakistan question Musharraf's determination to crack down on politically influential religious radicals ! although he has deployed at least 70,000 troops to track militants in sensitive tribal regions along the border with Afghanistan, and has handed over hundreds of terror suspects to the United States.

On the other hand, his bans on Islamic extremist groups blamed for sectarianism and religious violence have had mixed results. Last month, the government ordered some outfits that had been banned in the past two years to be outlawed once again as they had reconstituting under new names ! but it made few arrests.

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