Musharraf Escapes Second Assassination Attempt

Two  homicide bombs (searchexploded as President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's (search) motorcade passed Thursday, the second attempt to assassinate him in two weeks, officials said. Musharraf's car was damaged though he was unhurt, and at least 14 bystanders were killed.

The bombing in Rawalpindi (search), outside the capital, occurred near where a huge bomb exploded on Dec. 14 shortly after a convoy with Musharraf drove by. He escaped that attempt uninjured as well, and officials said high-tech jamming devices in the president's motorcade had delayed the device and saved his life.

In Thursday's attack, two homicide bombers detonated explosives hidden in pickup trucks as the president's motorcade passed two nearby gas stations on a main road in Rawalpindi, chief army spokesman Gen. Shaukat Sultan said.

"It was an assassination attempt on the president," Sultan said. "It was a suicide attack."

Abdur Rauf Chaudry, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said 14 people were killed, including two policemen. At least two bombers were also killed, and 46 people injured.

Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said on Pakistani television that the windshield on Musharraf's armored limousine was damaged, but the president's vehicle continued on its way.

"Thanks be to God, (the president) and members of his convoy are safe," Ahmed said.

There was no immediate word on who carried out Thursday's attack. Officials have blamed the earlier assassination attempt on Islamic militant groups, though no major arrests have been made. Government officials have speculated that Al Qaeda might have had a hand in the earlier attempt, which employed a sophisticated bomb hidden in five places on a bridge.

Security is always tight when Musharraf travels, with roads closed to allow his long motorcade to pass and heavily armed soldiers surrounding his vehicle. Security around the country was even tighter on Thursday as Pakistan's tiny Christian community celebrated Christmas.

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

Under the agreement reached with a coalition of hardline Islamic parties, Musharraf would remain as president but give up the army post. Musharraf also agreed to scale back several extraordinary powers he had decreed himself after taking power in a 1999 coup.