updated 3/15/2004 10:18:46 AM ET 2004-03-15T15:18:46

President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said Monday that a Libyan member of al-Qaida was behind two assassination attempts against him in December, and vowed to rid Pakistan’s tribal regions of hundreds of suspected foreign terrorists.

Musharraf, who escaped the attacks unhurt, did not name the Libyan suspect, who he said funded Islamic militants to carry out the bombings.

“The man who organized the suicide attacks against me was from Libya and a member of al-Qaida,” he told a meeting of tribal elders in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

Musharraf has previously said al-Qaida could have played a part in the attacks, but this was the first time he explicitly identified a suspect.

“He gave 1.5-2 million rupees ($26,100-$34,700) to a Pakistani who recruited Islamic militants, Islamic extremists,” Musharraf said.

More details to be released
The president promised that the government would reveal more details about who was behind the attacks. He said the suspects would be shown on television.

“You will see their interviews,” he said, without giving further details.

The two bombings happened 10 days apart in December. On both occasions, Musharraf was traveling in a motorcade in Rawalpindi, near the capital Islamabad. The first attack destroyed a bridge seconds after his vehicle passed, but no one was hurt. In the second attack, suicide bombers tried to ram into his vehicle, killing 16 people.

In his address Monday, Musharraf also made his strongest statement yet about the presence of al-Qaida rebels in Pakistan’s rugged mountains bordering Afghanistan — believed to be a possible hiding place of Osama bin Laden.

He acknowledged for the first time that between 500 to 600 foreigners “from different countries” were living in the semiautonomous tribal areas, and vowed to drive them out if they would not surrender.

“You give any name to them, al-Qaida or not, but I will say we will not allow these foreigners to stay in our tribal areas and create problems for us,” the president said.

“We will not allow them to get training in our tribal areas, store explosives and go back to Afghanistan for killing their Muslim brothers.”

“We will stop this practice,” he said.

Border issue
Pakistan is a key ally in the U.S.-led war on terrorism, but has faced criticism as rebels of al-Qaida and Afghanistan’s former ruling Taliban regime are believed to launch cross-border attacks in Afghanistan from Pakistani soil.

In the past two years, Pakistan’s military has deployed 70,000 forces in the tribal areas for the first time since independence, and has launched a series of operations to track down terrorist suspects there.

Musharraf’s speech was designed to encourage tribal elders — who often sympathize with the Taliban — to cooperate with the Pakistani government in its counterterrorism efforts.

His hard-hitting comments also came ahead of a scheduled visit to Pakistan on Wednesday by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Musharraf denied persistent rumors that U.S. forces were operating in Pakistan’s tribal regions, although he said that one or two dozen American intelligence and technical experts were helping Pakistan.

Some 13,500 U.S.-led forces are hunting for Taliban and al-Qaida rebels in southern and eastern Afghanistan, cooperating with Pakistan in what a top U.S. general has described as a “hammer and anvil” strategy to trap fugitives at the border.

“American forces do not have permission to cross over to Pakistan from Afghanistan,” Musharraf said.

Amnesty offered
The president said that foreigners in the tribal areas should surrender with their weapons. He offered an amnesty for those who did so.

“We will not hand them over to other countries, this is our promise,” he said.

Earlier Monday, a large bomb packed with chemicals and loaded inside a van was defused outside the U.S. Consulate in the southern city of Karachi.

It was not immediately clear who planted the device, though Islamic extremist groups have repeatedly targeted Westerners and minority Christians since the government threw its support behind the U.S.-led war on terrorism.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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