Archive for Sunday, June 23, 2002

Authorities return to suicide-bomb theory in deadly consulate blast

June 23, 2002

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— Pakistani authorities now believe the powerful blast outside the U.S. Consulate on June 14 was set off by a suicide bomber driving a Suzuki pickup, not by a driver's education car and triggered by remote control, the interior minister said Sunday.

The minister, Moinuddin Haider, also told reporters in Karachi that those who carried out the bombing were apparently "in league with" those behind another fatal bombing aimed at foreigners - the May 8 suicide blast outside a luxury hotel that killed 11 French engineers and three other people, including the bomber.

"The gang has been identified, and investigators are moving in correct direction," said Haider, without providing any details as to the bombers' affiliations.

Last week, officials said seven Arabs and seven Pakistanis suspected of al-Qaida links had been arrested in the investigation into attacks on Americans and other foreigners in Pakistan, including the kidnap and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

None of those 14 has been charged in connection with either of the bombings, or other attacks, or the Pearl case. Four men are now on trial in the journalist's abduction and killing.

The minister said he considered the investigation of the consulate bombing "30 to 40 percent" complete, and added that FBI investigators had been corroborating the findings of local police. Pakistani officials have said the FBI was providing technical support, including monitoring and tracing satellite telephone calls.

The consulate blast killed 12 people, all Pakistanis, and wounded 51 other people, including a U.S. Marine guard and five Pakistani consulate employees.

Among the dead were the five women in a driver's-education car. After at first suspecting a suicide bomber, investigators for a time had theorized that the bomb had been planted in that car and detonated by remote control.

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