Archive for Friday, June 14, 2002

Car bomb kills eight outside U.S. consulate in Pakistan

June 14, 2002


— A suicide attacker crashed a bomb-laden vehicle into a guard post outside the U.S. Consulate in Karachi on Friday, killing at least seven other people and injuring 45.

The massive blast incinerated a dozen cars, blew a 10-foot-wide hole in the compound wall, and sent debris flying a half-mile.

No Americans were believed killed, but one U.S. Marine and five Pakistani employees in the consulate were lightly injured.

Some of the dead were blown apart, making it difficult to determine exactly how many people were killed.

The Interior Ministry reported eight dead and 45 injured. The victims included four Pakistani police constables, a male passer-by and two unidentified women, along with the bomber, police said.

No one claimed responsibility, but suspicion fell on al-Qaida fugitives who have taken refuge in Pakistan since the collapse of Taliban rule in neighboring Afghanistan.

The blast occurred less than a mile from the site where 11 French engineers and three others were killed in a suicide bombing last month. It also came on the heels of a visit to Pakistan by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to Pakistan. Rumsfeld left the country Thursday.

Police said the bomb was concealed in a white vehicle, believed to be a Suzuki van, that the driver crashed into a police kiosk at the southern end of the consulate at 11:08 a.m. (1:08 a.m. EDT), leaving a crater five feet deep and a hole 10 feet wide in the 10-foot-high perimeter wall.

It also damaged the nearby Marriott Hotel and shattered windows in the consulate and other buildings up to a block away.

Mark Wentworth, a U.S. Embassy spokesman in Islamabad, said six consulate employees _ one U.S. Marine security guard and five Pakistani employees _ suffered minor injuries when struck by flying debris.

He said the bomb exploded about 50 feet from the building, which sustained some structural damage.

Sharif Ajnabi, a private security guard, was sitting in a park across the street from the consulate when the bomb went off.

"I heard a deafening explosion," he said. "There was smoke everywhere.

"Moments later, I saw a man's body flying in the air, and it fell near me. He was badly injured. Before we could give him water or medical help, he died. It was a horrifying scene."

Witnesses said U.S. Marines took up protective positions around the consulate.

Ambulances shuttled the injured to nearby hospitals. What appeared to be wreckage from the car was stuck in a water fountain and in trees.

"This is sheer terrorism," said Javed Ashraf Hussein, the chief administrator of Sindh province, who visited the scene of carnage. "We have put this area under high alert and heavy security, but the terrorists struck."

He would not comment on who might be responsible.

Karachi Mayor Naimat Ullah offered sympathy for U.S. officials and vowed to arrest those behind the attack.

"The terrorists have no religion. They are not Muslim. They are not human. They are just terrorists," Ullah said.

Violence against foreigners by Islamic militants has increased since Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf threw his support behind the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.

Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was abducted and murdered in Karachi in January while working on a story about Islamic militants.

Suicide attacks _ once unheard of here _ have occurred twice. Both were believed to have been carried out by al-Qaida.

On March 17, a suicide grenade attack at a church in Islamabad's diplomatic enclave killed five people, including two Americans.

On May 8, 11 French engineers and three others were killed in a suicide bombing in front of a Karachi hotel.

The United States withdrew all nonessential personnel and relatives of other staffers from Pakistan after the church bombing, and the British mission evacuated about 150 staff in late May after receiving "credible" information about a terrorist assault.

Also, in early June a diplomatic source said several hundred foreigners working for the United Nations in Pakistan were ordered to send their families home because of fears of a war between India and Pakistan.

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