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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 July 2007, 09:17 GMT 10:17 UK
Protest over Islamabad bombing
Pakistan bombing
Lawyers say senior judge Iftikhar Chaudhry may have been the target
Lawyers are boycotting courts across Pakistan a day after a bomb attack on an anti-government rally they were holding in Islamabad killed 15 people.

They say Tuesday's blast was an attempt to disrupt an opposition campaign against President Musharraf's rule.

Gen Musharraf strongly condemned the "terrorist attack" and called for calm.

Ousted chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry was due to attend the rally. It is not clear who carried out the attack or who the intended target might have been.

It is not clear if the blast was caused by a suicide bomber, as the authorities maintain.

Many witnesses say the motorbike used in the attack contained a remote-controlled bomb.

Prayers

Lawyers say Mr Chaudhry could have been the man the bomber wanted to kill.

The Pakistan Bar Council - the country's largest lawyers' association - said its members would boycott courts across the country on Wednesday in protest at the attack.

Judge Iftikhar Chaudhry
Judge Chaudhry is a staunch opponent of President Musharraf

In a statement, the council said its members would not engage in any court proceedings except for the case being heard against Justice Chaudhry.

Justice Chaudhry has been at the centre of growing anti-government protests ever since Gen Musharraf suspended him in March for alleged misuse of office.

The judge denies the allegations. His supporters say they are politically motivated.

Mr Chaudhry was not present at the rally at the time of the attack, which left more than 40 people wounded.

Two hours after the blast, Justice Chaudhry visited the venue of the rally where he led brief prayers for the victims, many of whom were supporters of the opposition Pakistan People's Party (PPP).

Those present chanted anti-government slogans and verses from the Koran were recited.

Justice Chaudhry's address was cancelled in "keeping with the gravity of the tragedy and human losses", rally organisers said.

Hospital and interior ministry officials said 15 people were killed and at least 43 injured in the blast.

Unclear motive

Witnesses said the bomber struck near where supporters of Benazir Bhutto's PPP had gathered for the rally.

Police said Mr Chaudhry was several kilometres away when the blast occurred.

Correspondents say it is not clear what the motive might have been for the attack.

At recent talks in London, the PPP distanced itself from the alliance of Islamic parties who also oppose President Musharraf.

The PPP also backed the security forces' decision last week to storm the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in Islamabad where hard-line clerics and militants had waged a campaign for a strict version of Sharia law in recent months.

In recent days, dozens of people have been killed in a spate of bombings in north-west Pakistan carried out by pro-Taleban militants opposed to Gen Musharraf.

The Supreme Court, which has been hearing an appeal by Mr Chaudhry against his suspension, was expected to announce a verdict as early as Friday




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Ambulances rushed the injured to hospital



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