Eight hurt in twin blasts in Pak

Islamabad, September 9:

Blasts occurred in two fast food outlets in the Sindh capital of Karachi overnight wounding eight people and the provincial government today blamed opposition political parties for it.

The twin blasts at the Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald’s fast food restaurants came as the opposition parties called for a countrywide “wheel-jam” strike today against price hikes and President Pervez Musharraf’s “pro-Western” policies. Provincial home minister Rauf Siddiqui said the blasts were caused by locally made powerful firecrackers. “Eight people were slightly wounded by the flying pieces of windowpanes smashed by the impact,” he told reporters in Karachi.

Sindh Governor Ishrat ul Abbad pointed a finger at the opposition parties for the blasts. “This is simply an attempt to create panic and scare off people on the eve of the strike call.” The first explosion occurred around midnight on the first floor of the KFC restaurant while the second came nearly 15 minutes later when firecrackers exploded in a dustbin in the parking area of the McDonald’s. Foreign food outlets in Karachi have been targeted in the past by Islamic militants.

Meanwhile, police detained 34 opposition activists as part of stepped-up security today during a strike to demand that Musharraf step down. Owners shut their shops in several cities to heed the strike call by six radical Islamic groups and Pakistan’s main opposition coalition, Elliance for Restoration of Democracy. But the strike was not likely to unsettle Musharraf, who has weathered many such protests. Police detained the 34 people who tried to stage a demonstration in a central square in Multan, a major city in the eastern Punjab province, and accused them of disturbing the peace, local police official Munir Ahmed Chishti said. But no one was formally arrested or charged immediately. A separate report said Pakistani police have arrested Mufti Mohammad Sabir, an Islamic militant allegedly involved in a 2002 car bomb attack that killed 11 French engineers in the country’s port city of Karachi, news reports said today.