- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 1, 2003

KARACHI, Pakistan Anti-American violence returned to the southern port city of Karachi yesterday, when gunmen ran out of a park and opened fire on Pakistani police guarding the U.S. Consulate, killing two officers and injuring at least five others.

It was the first attack targeting U.S. interests in Pakistan since June, when a suicide bomber rammed an explosives-filled car into the wall of the same consulate, killing 12 Pakistanis.

An unknown number of gunmen emerged from the park across the street from the heavily fortified consulate yesterday and opened fire on the policemen, some of whom were eating lunch and had put down their weapons. One attacker grabbed an officer's automatic rifle and turned it on police.

After a chase through the park, officers tackled one of the assailants and arrested him. The man, who was found carrying a pistol, was identified as an Afghan national, police said.

The wounded were taken to a hospital by motorists who stopped to help, witnesses said. Alam Zeb, an off-duty officer who was shot in the neck, was in a washroom next to the guard post preparing for midday Muslim prayers when the attack began. Another of the wounded was a passer-by caught in the cross fire.

No Americans were injured in the attack.

Karachi, a port city of 14 million people, has been one of Pakistan's leading centers of anti-Western violence in recent years.

In January last year, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped in Karachi while researching Pakistani extremists. A month later, a grisly videotape sent to U.S. diplomats showed Mr. Pearl dead.

There has been a great deal of public outrage in Pakistan about a likely war on Iraq and warnings of violence if President Pervez Musharraf, a key U.S. ally in the war against terror, backs the United States against Baghdad.

Interior Ministry spokesman Iftikhar Ahmad said security forces on are on alert but said yesterday's attack was not likely the result of an increase in anti-American sentiment amid the Iraq standoff.

Family members of U.S. diplomats have been evacuated from Pakistan. Most foreign missions here also have evacuated the families of diplomats.

Security has been intense around the U.S. mission since the bombing in June. Cement barricades stop vehicles from entering the area to prevent car bombings. High walls surround the consulate, and people entering the building are closely monitored.

"The consulate is very well-protected, and all the Americans were inside," Karachi Police Chief Kamal Shah said. There are about a half-dozen guard posts and a security tent near the consulate.

U.S. Consul General John Bauman told police that a camera mounted on the outside of the building recorded the shooting.

The June car bombing was one of a series of attacks on foreigners and Pakistan's minority Christians in the country since Gen. Musharraf threw his support behind the U.S.-led war against terrorism. Five suspects accused of masterminding the bombing are on trial, charged with conspiracy, murder and terrorism. They face the death penalty if convicted.

In recent days, the city has been battered by a spate of violent, religiously motivated attacks.

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