Foreigners Targeted by Pakistan Bomb

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Warrick Page / Getty

Police officers cordon off the area outside Luna Caprese restaurant after an explosion was set off amidst diners on March 15, 2008, in Islamabad.

A powerful bomb ripped through the garden seating area of a restaurant in Islamabad on Saturday evening, killing a Turkish aid worker and wounding 11 others, including a British diplomat, two Japanese nationals, four Americans, a Canadian and the Italian owner, according to Pakistan police officials. Luna Caprese is an Italian-style casual restaurant that specializes in pizza, and is popular among foreigners because it is one of the few restaurants that serves alcohol in the Pakistani capital. Waiter Shaukat Abassi had just returned to the kitchen with a load of dirty dishes when the bomb hit. "It felt like an earthquake," he said. "I saw a lot of blood." Abassi had been working at the restaurant for more than 12 years. Not once had they ever received a threat, he said, even though the back of the garden abuts a local mosque. Police investigators are still unsure about the origin of the bomb, but it does not appear to be a suicide bomber — more likely, the bomb was either placed in the garden and remotely detonated, or lobbed over the wall.

The sound of the explosion reverberated through the surrounding neighborhoods, and shoppers at one of the capital's biggest markets, across the street, ran over to help. One of those who rushed to the scene was newly elected member of parliament Tariq Fazl Chaudhry. "I don't understand how terrorists could have gotten into the capital," he said in an impromptu press conference. "How did they get past the check points?" Although bombers have targeted other Pakistani cities, the capital has been largely immune of late, shielded by a ferocious police presence and limited access. He blamed "unknown forces" intent on spreading instability. "They want to bring a bad name on our religion," he said. "We don't accept this."

But Pakistanis are increasingly forced to accept such attacks. Over the past year the country has averaged a bombing a week, and those attacks are not limited to the lawless tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan. Just last week, twin bombings in the cultural capital of Lahore killed 27; four other blasts have killed scores since the beginning of the year. Aziz Bangash, a health department official, worried about the damage these kinds of bombings do to Pakistan, not just internally, but also in world opinion. "These miscreants are giving a bad name to our country," he said. "They are doing this just to create panic because so many foreigners come here."