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In Pakistan, Americans as targets

Pakistani police detained 30 illegal immigrants following the apparently anti-American church attack in Islamabad.

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The attacker at the Pakistan International Church arrived here Sunday dressed like many of the other worshipers. He was cleanshaven, and he wore a Western-style shirt, pants, and jacket rather than the traditional Pakistani garb known as salwar kameez. But in his jacket, police say, hid the grenades that injured more than 40 people, and killed five.

Police now say the tactics of the attacker show that this was not simply an attack on Christians – there are easier churches to target. Rather, this church was chosen for its proximity to the US Embassy and for its high percentage of foreign attendees, investigators say.

Like the kidnapping and execution of American journalist Daniel Pearl, analysts say, this attack is part of an emerging strategy of reprisals by Islamic militants to punish America for its war on terrorism – and to destabilize the pro-US government of President Pervez Musharraf.

"It was not Christians but Americans who were the target," says Shahidur Rehman, a political analyst in Islamabad and author of the book "Who Owns Pakistan?" "There are many larger Christian churches that have no security."

To get to the church, the attacker would have had to either evade or talk his way through two separate police checkpoints.

It is this sophistication, and the possibility that the attacker ended up killing himself to increase the death count, that is leading investigators to suspect groups that have ties with Al Qaeda, the terrorist organization run by Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden.

Undermining Musharraf

Observers say the attack – along with the Daniel Pearl kidnapping – could be an attempt to show Musharraf's inability to bring Islamic militancy under control. Others say that America has no choice but to support Musharraf.

"If Musharraf dies, that's it, there's no No. 2," says Ardeshir Cowasjee, a columnist for Dawn, a leading Pakistani newspaper. "The support Pakistan is receiving is not enough. If killing one Taliban takes $1 million, then at least you can wipe out our debt."


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