- The Washington Times - 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 yesterday, setting off a huge explosion that killed 11 persons and injured 45. No Americans were among the dead.
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 Qaeda.
One U.S. Marine guard suffered slight injuries from flying debris. Five Pakistanis who work at the consulate were injured, said Mark Wentworth, a U.S. Embassy spokesman in Islamabad.
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."
Tight security measures, including concrete barriers around a 10-foot-high concrete wall, probably prevented more casualties inside the heavily guarded compound.
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. 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.
Aside from the bomber, the dead included four Pakistani police constables, three passersby 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.
U.S. officials in Washington said they suspect that al Qaeda 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.
President Bush, in Houston, blamed "radical killers" for the explosion and vowed they would not intimidate the United States.
"They claim they're religious people and they blow up Muslims. They have no regard for individual life," Mr. Bush told reporters.
Earlier in Columbus, Ohio, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the bombing is a "vivid reminder" of the dangers facing Americans in the war on terrorism.
The United States promptly closed its consulates in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar, as well as the American Center in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital. A State Department official said a decision will be made soon about whether to reopen them Monday.
The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad notified Americans in Pakistan of the bombing and advised them to take precautions.
Violence against foreigners has increased since Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf threw his support behind the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.
The blast occurred less than a mile from where 11 French engineers and three others were killed in a suicide bombing May 8.
Karachi was also where Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was abducted and slain in January while working on a story about Islamic militants. Four Islamic militants are on trial in that case.
On March 17, a man ran down the aisle of a church in Islamabad's diplomatic enclave and threw grenades. He was killed along with four others, including two Americans a U.S. Embassy employee and her teen-age daughter. The man has not been identified.
The United States withdrew all nonessential personnel and relatives of other staffers from Pakistan after the church bombing. Other countries have followed suit. Last month, the British mission evacuated 150 staffers owing to security concerns.
In Karachi yesterday, police sealed off the area around the consulate as 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.
The heavily secured consulate always has four layers of Pakistani and American guards. The sidewalk in front normally is blocked off and barricades shunt traffic away from lanes next to the building. Few people are allowed inside. Even U.S. citizens have to make appointments days in advance.
"This is sheer terrorism," said Javed Ashraf Hussein, chief secretary of Sindh province, who visited the scene. "We have put this area under high alert and heavy security, but the terrorists struck."


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