Pakistani police say bomb near U.S. Consulate kills 11

Saturday, June 15, 2002

KARACHI, Pakistan -- A suicide driver slammed his explosives-packed vehicle into a concrete barrier in front of the U.S. Consulate Friday, setting off a huge explosion that killed 11 people and injured 45.

The attack -- the fourth against foreigners in Pakistan since January -- prompted the U.S. government to consider scaling back its diplomatic staff in this country on the front line of the war against al-Qaida.

No Americans were among the dead, but one U.S. Marine guard suffered slight injuries from flying debris. Five Pakistanis who work at the consulate also were injured, said Mark Wentworth, a U.S. Embassy spokesman in Islamabad.

Tight security measures, including concrete barriers around a 10-foot-high concrete wall, probably prevented more casualties inside the heavily guarded compound.

U.S. officials in Washington said they suspect al-Qaida or affiliated Islamic extremist groups carried out the attack, but have no direct evidence. Several Pakistani groups in Karachi have ties to Osama bin Laden's terror network.

Faxed message

Late Friday, Karachi newspapers received a fax message claiming responsibility in the name of the previously unknown "Tarjuman-Al-Qanoon," or Spokesman for the Law. The message said the attack was a "preview with more to follow" and was part of a holy war against the United States and its "puppet ally," the Pakistani government.

In Washington, U.S. counterterrorism officials said they were aware of the claim but had not determined if it was credible. And President Bush said the bombing speaks to the nature of terrorism itself.

"We fight an enemy that are radical killers; that's what they are," Bush said. "They claim they are religious people, and then blow up Muslims. They have no regard for human life."

The United States promptly closed its consulates in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar, as well as the American Center in Islamabad. A State Department official said a decision will be made soon whether to reopen them Monday.

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad notified Americans in Pakistan about the bombing and advised them to take precautions.

Police said the driver clipped a police guard post at the southern end of the consulate grounds at 11:08 a.m. before slamming into one of the 3-foot-high concrete security barriers around the perimeter wall.

The vehicle exploded on impact, disintegrating the barrier, collapsing part of the steel-reinforced concrete wall around the compound and hurling debris a half-mile away. The blast incinerated nearly 20 cars and damaged a large tree inside the compound.

Many victims were blown to bits, their body parts found hundreds of yards away.

Dr. Hafiz Athar said 11 people were killed, including 10 identified by relatives or colleagues. The other remains was believed to be that of the bomber.

The dead included the bomber, four Pakistani police constables, three passers-by and three women in a car who had just finished a driver's education course and were on their way to get their licenses.

The blast also damaged the adjacent Marriott Hotel and other buildings, including the Japanese consulate 300 yards away. A Japanese employee was slightly injured by flying debris.

'A horrifying scene'

Sharif Ajnabi, a private security guard, was sitting in a park across the street from the consulate in Karachi Friday 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."

Police and emergency workers collected body parts and put them on sheets spread on the ground. Ambulances shuttled the injured to hospitals. Wreckage from a car was stuck in a water fountain and in trees.

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