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Are foreigners now targets for Pakistan bombers?

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Five Americans, including U.S. embassy personnel, were injured in a bomb blast Saturday at an Islamabad restaurant that's a favorite dining spot for foreigners.

A Turkish woman was killed and 11 others were injured, including British, Canadian, and Japanese diners and two or three Pakistanis.

Bewildered bloodied patrons stumbled out in the blast's aftermath, clothes shredded, their skin lacerated. Some shouted the names of friends or family.

It was the first bombing to target foreigners in a year-long wave of violence by Islamic extremists in Pakistan that has focused almost exclusively on Pakistani army, police and government officials.

Islamabad already was on a high state of alert for Monday's convening of a new parliament following elections last month.

The blast was not a suicide bombing, said police and bystanders. That too was unusual, given the heavy reliance on suicide attacks — a calling card of al Qaeda — in the current wave of violence.

Abdul Hasseb Khan, a former Pakistani army officer who helped the injured out of the restaurant, said that one diner had lost an eye and another had broken teeth. A woman had broken a leg.

"The target was Americans," said Khan. "It happened on the lawn. There is a crater. Plastic explosives, you could tell from the smoke."

The restaurant, a two-story pink house named Luna Caprese, serves Italian food in the heart of Islamabad's most expensive residential district. It is known for openly selling alcohol in a country where alcohol is prohibited.

The blast occurred at about 8:45 p.m.

Witnesses said Luna Caprese's garden, especially popular in spring, was strewn with broken glass, abandoned shoes and other personal items. They described a crater from the blast three-to-four feet deep. A suicide bombing typically leaves no crater.

A timed device or a grenade was the likely weapon, bystanders speculated, possibly thrown into the garden from its neighboring lane. There was no immediate claim of responsibility but there seldom is in Pakistan.

Still parked outside the restaurant were two SUVs, one with a diplomatic plate on its dashboard indicating U.S. ownership.

Kay Mayfield, public affairs counselor at the U.S. embassy in Islamabad, said: "There were U.S. embassy personnel among the injured. They are receiving treatment."

Owais Khan, a commercial pilot who lives close to the restaurant and joined the crowd outside it said: "This will lead into a terrible situation. It is the relationship with America and their assistance to us that is being targeted."

Since Pakistani troops stormed a radical mosque in Islamabad in July last year, resulting in a bloodbath, the country has been struck by a campaign of bombings that are becoming more frequent and sophisticated.

Government ministers and U.S. officals blame Taliban militants, who are closely allied with al Qaeda, for the violence. But many Pakistanis blame U.S.-backed president Pervez Musharraf for provoking the backlash by joining the war on terror.

His political enemies did not let the latest incident pass.

Qazi Hussain Ahmed, who heads the country's biggest moderate Islamist political party, Jamaat-e-Islami, said "Responsibility rests on the shoulders of Pervez Musharraf. It is because of his many wrong policies that Pakistan has become the target of terrorists."

(Shah is a McClatchy special correspondent.)

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