ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, (AP) – Investigators reviewed security video and picked through debris Tuesday to determine whether a suicide attacker blew up a massive car bomb outside the Danish embassy, killing six people.
No one has claimed responsibility for Monday’s blast, which also wounded at least 35, though suspicion immediately fell on al-Qaeda. The explosion came just weeks after the terrorist group threatened Denmark over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad republished in newspapers in that country earlier this year.
A team of federal investigators sifted through the rubble. Barricades blocked access to the area, home to several diplomatic buildings and residences. The embassy building itself remained standing, while a nearby development group’s office sustained severe damage.
“We are just trying to find any clue, any evidence,” federal investigator Muhammad Mustafa said. “You know yesterday it was panic here. Usually we miss important things in panic.”
Officials were trying to determine if the bomb was a suicide attack and looked at security footage. Senior police officer Ahmed Latif said the attacker apparently used a fake diplomatic license plate to get the car near the embassy.
The explosion could heighten pressure on Pakistan to stop striking peace deals with militants in the border regions, where al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters are believed to have found sanctuary.
Pakistan insists it is not talking to “terrorists” but rather militants willing to lay down their weapons. But the U.S. has warned the deals could simply give militants time to rebuild strength.
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said in a statement Monday the blast would “redouble our resolve” to “continue on our avowed path to fight terrorism and extremism.” Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik said the attack would not affect the peace talks.
The six dead include two Pakistani policemen, a cleaner and a handyman employed by the embassy. One was Pakistani-born with a Danish passport, the Foreign Ministry in Copenhagen said.
Monday’s attack follows a bombing in March at a restaurant in Islamabad that killed a Turkish aid worker and wounded at least 12 others, including at least four FBI personnel.
The U.S. advised Americans to be extra cautious in moving through the usually tranquil capital, but there was no immediate indication that it or any other foreign governments or aid agencies would evacuate their personnel after the new attack.
Denmark has faced threats at its embassies following the reprinting in February by about a dozen newspapers of a cartoon that depicted Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban. That and other images in a Danish paper sparked riots in the Muslim world in 2006.
Ben Venzke, CEO of IntelCenter, a U.S. group that monitors al-Qaeda messages, said the bombing was likely the work of the terror group or an affiliate.
He said al-Qaeda called for attacks against Danish diplomatic facilities and personnel in a video last August, and repeated its threat in April.
“I urge and incite every Muslim who can harm Denmark to do so in support of the Prophet, God’s peace and prayers be upon him, and in defense of his honorable stature,” IntelCenter quoted al-Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri as saying in an April 21 video.
But analysts said it was possible groups other than al-Qaeda who also were angry about the cartoons could be behind the blast. Islam generally forbids any depiction of the prophet, even positive, for fear it could lead to idolatry.
Mahmood Shah, a former security chief for the tribal regions, said al-Qaeda attacks tend to be more lethal. Radical local clerics could have inspired it, although if it was a suicide bombing, it likely originated from the unruly border regions, he said.
Even if the attack isn’t linked to the tribal regions, the U.S. and the West “will use this … to say look, your policy (on peace deals) is not working,” analyst Talat Masood said.