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Musharraf escapes bid on life
K J M Varma in Islamabad
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July 06, 2007 13:14 IST
Last Updated: July 06, 2007 18:20 IST

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf [Images] on Friday survived an attempt on his life after his plane came under fire from anti-aircraft guns as it took off from the military airbase in Rawalpindi.

The attack is seen as retaliation by hardliners to the crackdown against the Lal Masjid clerics.

Several rounds were fired at the plane carrying Musharraf from a light machine gun and two anti-aircraft guns fixed at the rooftop of a house located close to the runway of the Chaklala airbase in Rawalpindi.

Musharraf was going to Turbat town in Balochistan, which was hit by heavy rains and floods this week, to supervise relief operations when his plane was fired at. He reached safely.

The defence ministry, however, denied the local DawnNews TV report that a rocket was also fired at Musharraf's aircraft from the house. "The president is visiting the flood-affected areas of Balochistan and Sindh. There is no truth to such reports and the media should be aware of their responsibilities while reporting any sensitive issue. The report is concocted, baseless and unfounded," state-run APP news agency quoted officials of the defence ministry as saying.

The police, who raided the house, found two anti-aircraft guns fitted on to its roof. The house was rented by a couple only on Thursday and they reportedly fled before the police raid.

Apart from using the anti-aircraft guns, the unidentified militants fired 25 rounds from the light machine gun at Musharraf's plane.

The police also recovered 150 rounds of ammunition from the scene. Journalists, who visited the house, also found the evidence that it was used for the attack. Security personnel suspect that the incident was linked to the current crackdown against the Lal Masjid where militants headed by a radical cleric have been holed up for the past four days.

Scores of heavily armed police men took control of the house located in the busy Asghar Mall Road close to the Chaklala military airbase which is used by Musharraf.

Officers from the Military Intelligence and the Inter Serives Intelligence also visited the house.

Besides, sharp shooters have been deployed on the roof tops of the neighbouring houses to prevent a follow up attack when he returns. While the neighbours of the house confirmed hearing massive bursts of gunfire causing panic all around, the house owner has been detained for questioning.

The house was rented by an unidentified bearded man yesterday along with his "wife and two children."

Also, several other bearded men were seen "suspiciously" moving on the terrace. They all fled the house after the incident and a massive manhunt has been launched for them.

Musharraf has survived several attacks by extremists.

Among those were two suicide attacks in the vicinity of the Chaklala airbase in December 2003. The president lives in the heavily-guarded Army House, the official residence of the Pakistan army chief.

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