Danes working with Pakistanis investigating blast

12312AS.jpgISLAMABAD (Reuters) – A Danish team has arrived in Pakistan to work with agents investigating a suicide car-bomb attack on Denmark’s embassy which al Qaeda said it carried out in revenge for the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.

The attack on the embassy on Monday killed six people and wounded 25, and followed a lull in attacks since a new government made up of parties opposed to President Pervez Musharraf came to power after the February elections.

The attack heightened fears about the safety of foreigners in Pakistan and raised fresh concern about militant violence and instability in a nuclear-armed, Muslim U.S. ally facing growing economic problems.

A Pakistani spokesman said on Thursday al Qaeda’s claim of responsibility for the attack would have no impact on government efforts to end militant violence through negotiations.

The Danish Security and Intelligence Service said this week it was sending staff to investigate the attack although the Pakistani spokesman said the team of diplomats and “technical support staff” was not an investigation team.

“They are meeting our security people … they are sharing advice, they are sharing information with each other,” Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Sadiq told a weekly briefing.

The suicide bomber drove up to the embassy in a residential neighborhood and set off his explosives. Among the dead where two policemen and a private guard.

All the dead and wounded were Pakistanis.

Al Qaeda, in an internet statement signed by its leader in Afghanistan, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, said it was behind the attack which was revenge for the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad which appeared in Danish newspapers in 2005.

PEACE TALKS

The cartoons, considered blasphemous by many Muslims, sparked deadly protests and attacks on Danish missions in 2006 when the embassy in Islamabad was temporarily shut because of security fears.

This year, al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, called on Muslims to attack Denmark because of the cartoons.

The Monday blast came as Pakistan’s government, led by the party of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, was holding talks with leaders of the ethnic Pashtun tribes on the Afghan border where al Qaeda and Taliban fighters have found refuge.

Hundreds of people, including Bhutto, have been killed in a series of attacks over the past year, most blamed on an al Qaeda-linked Taliban commander based in the lawless South Waziristan region on the border.

Although similar pacts have failed to curb the militants in recent years, the government hopes the tribal leaders can use their authority stop violence in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The peace talks have widespread support in Pakistan but the United States and some of Pakistan’s other allies fear deals will free up Taliban and al Qaeda militants to intensify their war against the West in Afghanistan and beyond.

Sadiq said al Qaeda’s claim of responsibility for Monday’s attack on the Danish embassy would have no impact on the negotiations with the tribes.

“These talks are not with the terrorist organizations or with terrorists, so I don’ think that this statement makes any difference,” Sadiq said.

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