- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 16, 2002

From combined dispatches
KARACHI, Pakistan Investigators who first blamed a suicide bomber for a deadly blast outside the U.S. consulate were examining yesterday whether it was caused by a remote-controlled bomb hidden in a driver's education car taking three women to get licenses.
The explosion Friday killed at least 10 persons and injured 45 as it blew a gaping hole in the heavily guarded consulate's perimeter wall, shattered windows a block away, and sent debris flying a half-mile. A previously unknown group claimed responsibility.
A senior Pakistani police official said the attackers might have used innocent women as bait to fool the guards at the consulate.
Fayyaz Leghari, the deputy inspector general of police heading the investigation, said the presence of four women, including the instructor, in the car could have prevented police from searching the vehicle.
Pakistani police and paramilitary troops guarding the consulate routinely check every vehicle passing by the building. But in Pakistan, police usually do not search vehicles carrying women, police sources said.
"We are still not certain, but we believe the car with the women was used to dupe the guards," Mr. Leghari said.
Two cars, a Suzuki passenger van and a 1981 Toyota Corolla, were found near the consulate at the time of the attack. It was first believed that the Suzuki van was used by a suicide bomber.
But Mr. Leghari said the police now believe the bomb "most likely" could have been hidden in the Toyota that belonged to a local driving school. Police said the bomb might have been stashed in the vehicle, while it was parked outside the driving school, by someone who knew it would pass by the consulate and who detonated the explosives by radio from nearby.
"We are keeping all options open," said Brig. Mukhtar Sheik, the chief of security in Sindh province. "This could be one possibility which can't be ruled out."
The widespread devastation made it difficult to piece together events leading up to the bombing, even the precise death toll and which vehicle contained the explosives. Officials first said 11 persons were killed, then lowered the death toll yesterday to 10, citing confusion in sorting out body parts.
Later yesterday, Brig. Sheik said forensic experts again had concluded 11 persons were killed after re-examining body parts.
The dead also included a physician living in Kenya, Aliyah Warsi, and her uncle, who had just left the nearby Marriott hotel after making arrangements for her wedding that was planned for yesterday.
The U.S. Consulate said a number of American teams, including FBI investigators, were coming to Karachi to examine the crime scene and evaluate structural damage. Additional security also was arriving.
The United States closed its consulates in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar, as well as the American Center in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, with a decision to be made over the weekend on whether to reopen tomorrow. The fourth attack against foreigners in Pakistan since January also prompted the U.S. government to consider scaling back diplomatic staff in a country on the front line of the war against al Qaeda.
"This explosion is a stark reminder again to all Americans living in and traveling through Pakistan of the need to pay attention to their personal security situation," the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad said in a warning issued to Americans in Pakistan.
Security also was tightened at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, capital of neighboring Afghanistan.
One U.S. Marine guard and five Pakistani employees at the Karachi consulate suffered slight injuries from flying debris. 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 that al Qaeda or affiliated Islamic extremist groups carried out the attack, but they have no direct evidence. Several Pakistani groups in Karachi have ties to Osama bin Laden's terror network.
Late Friday, Karachi newspapers received a fax message claiming responsibility in the name of the previously unknown "al Qanoon," or the Law. The fax said the attack was the start of a holy war against the United States and its "puppet ally," the Pakistani government.


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