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Rockets fired at Western targets in Pakistan

SIX ROCKETS tore through the skies of Islamabad yesterday in a series of co-ordinated attacks on American and other international targets. The rockets came from home-made launchers, crudely welded into the back of three vehicles parked at different points in the city.

One was near the United States embassy, another close to the American cultural centre and the third by a 20-storey office block that houses most of the United Nation's offices in Islamabad. All of the rockets missed their targets - in some cases, literally by a mile.

Who carried out the attacks is not clear, but suspicion immediately fell on the Taliban, which controls most of neighbouring Afghanistan. In two days, the UN is due to impose sanctions on the Taliban if it fails to hand over the Saudi dissident, Osama bin Laden, whom the US blames for a series of terrorist attacks.

One of the rockets apparently intended for the US embassy, over-flew its target and crashed through the wall of Pakistani government offices near the city centre, fortunately not causing injury. Another rocket, aimed at the UN building, landed harmlessly in the garden of another government building.

Only one man, a Pakistani security guard at the American cultural centre, was slightly injured. Had the intended targets been hit, the damage would have been massive.

What is still not clear is how three cars with rocket launchers virtually sticking out of their windows were able to get so close to sensitive buildings. UN officials immediately went into a series of meetings to discuss how they can protect their staff in future. Non-essential diplomatic staff are likely to be sent back to their home countries.

Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader, immediately denied responsibility for the rocket attacks, saying: "Islam does not allow this kind of terrorism, the Taliban are against such terrorist acts."