Officials said the two cars used in the attack were driven out of two petrol stations just 200 metres from a bridge on a main road in the city of Rawalpindi where Musharraf escaped a bombing on 14 December.

   

The powerful blasts scattered debris and body parts over a wide area and damaged the windscreen of the president's armoured Mercedes, but he was unhurt, they said.

   

"The President and all his companions are safe and sound," said Major-General Shaukat Sultan. An aide said Musharraf, who had been heading home, was "in good spirits".

 

Cavalcade

   

"It was an assassination attempt," said Information Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed. "Two suicide attackers in two cars tried to hit the president's vehicle. God has saved him. Three cars of the cavalcade, including the president's car, were damaged."

 

Musharraf escaped the previous
kill attempt on the same road

Interior Ministry spokesman Abdul Rauf Chaudary said at least 14 people had been killed, including at least two bombers, and 18 people were wounded.

   

A soldier and three policeman were among the dead. Some police officers in the motorcade were hurt and a diversionary open-topped Mercedes at the tail end of the motorcade was blown across the road by the blasts.

   

Soldiers and police cordoned off the area on the road connecting Rawalpindi with the capital Islamabad. The route is used almost daily by Musharraf to drive to and from the capital.

The presidential convoy was returning from a conference at the Ministry of Higher Education in the headquarters of the Islamic Conference Organization.   

Sultan said it was too early to determine who might be responsible for the attack.

   

The attack has come a few days before a regional summit in Islamabad due to be attended by India's Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

   

India condemned the attack. 

Resentment

Jasim Taqi, a Pakistani writer and political analyst told Aljazeera.net the attempted assassinations were related to Musharraf's stance against Jihad groups and his concessions to the US and India.

Taqi said the president's policy had generated resentment in the army and  organisations backed by the Pakistani Intelligence. They fear Musharraf might sacrifice Kashmir and the nuclear programme due to pressure from New Delhi, he said.

"Two suicide attackers in two cars tried to hit the president's vehicle. God has saved him"

Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed,
Information Minister, Pakistan

Musharraf's enemies like al-Qaida, other hardline groups and among sections in the army have increased, the analyst pointed out.  The army has said it will not investigate senior Pakistani scientists suspected to have leaked nuclear secrets to Iran.

 

Al-Qaida has repeatedly threatened to assassinate Musharraf and has also called on the Pakistani tribes to do the same, Taqi said, recalling the public call of the network's second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri to kill the president.


The attempted assassination of Musharraf is the fourth since he assumed power in Pakistan, two of the attempts occurred in Karachi and the other two in the military capital, Rawalpindi, our correspondent said.

The attack came a day after Musharraf agreed to step-down as army chief by the end of 2004, ending a political stalemate that had paralysed parliament and stalled this nation's return to democracy.