Explosion at U.S. consulate in Karachi kills 11

KARACHI, Pakistan, AP

An attacker crashed a bomb-laden vehicle into the security perimeter outside the heavily guarded U.S. Consulate in Karachi on Friday, killing himself and at least ten other people and injuring 45.

The massive blast incinerated a dozen cars, blew a 3-meter-wide (10-foot-wide hole) hole in the compound wall, and sent debris flying a kilometer (half-mile) away.

No Americans were believed killed, but one U.S. Marine and five Pakistani employees in the consulate, which has been operating with a keleton staff since non-essential workers were sent home last month due to concerns over terrorist attacks, were lightly injured. U.S. State Department officials said they would evaluate anew how many U.S. personnel to keep in Pakistan.

“It’s a deplorable act of terrorism and our condolences go to the families of the victims, and we wish a full and speedy recovery to all those injured,” White House spokesman Sean McCormack said.

Some of the victims were blown apart, making it difficult to determine exactly how many people were killed.

Dr. Hafiz Athar, a police surgeon, said 11 people were killed, including 10 identified by relatives or colleagues. The other set of remains was thought to be from the bomber.

The victims included four Pakistani police constables, a male passer-by, the bomber and four women, police said. Three of the women had just finished a driver’s education course and were en route to get their licenses. No one claimed responsibility, but suspicion fell on al-Qaida fugitives who have taken refuge in Pakistan since the collapse of Taliban rule in neighboring Afghanistan. Please see EXPLOSION on page

Bombing in Pakistan drives stocks lower early Friday NEW YORK, AP A bombing outside a U.S. government office in Pakistan early Friday triggered another sharp sell-off on Wall Street, sending the Dow industrials down more than 130 points.

A spate of bad news about the health of business — a revenue warning from Lucent, downgrades of wireless stocks, and a decline in consumer sentiment — also scared away investors, setting the market up for a fourth straight weekly decline.

The Dow was headed for its third triple-digit loss this week.

In early trading, the Dow was down 135.14, or 1.4 percent, at 9,367.66. On Thursday, the Dow fell 114.91, and on Tuesday the blue chips lost 128.14.

The broader market also had steep losses. The Nasdaq composite index dropped 30.61, or 2.0 percent, to 1,466.25, after losing 22.96 Thursday.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 20.80, or 2.1 percent, to 988.76, following Thursday’s decline of 10.70.

The blast occurred 1.5 kilometers (less than a mile) from the site where 11 French engineers and three others were killed in a suicide bombing last month. It also came on the heels of a visit to Pakistan by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who left the country Thursday.

Police said the bomb was concealed in a white vehicle, believed to be a Suzuki van, that the driver crashed into a police guard post at the southern end of the consulate at 11:08 a.m. (0508 GMT). The vehicle exploded after careening into one of the meter-high (3-foot-high), sand-filled concrete security barriers that encircle the compound. The barriers have gaps only wide enough to walk through.

The blast, heard several kilometers (miles) away, disintegrated the barrier, along with a three-meter-wide (10-foot-wide) section of the 3-meter high (10-foot-high), steel-reinforced wall behind it. Another barrier inside the wall was reduced to rubble, part of a huge tree was scorched away, and windows in the four-story consulate were blown in.

The adjacent Marriott Hotel and other nearby buildings also sustained damage, including the Japanese Consulate 300 meters (yards) away, where a Japanese employee was slightly injured by flying debris.

Mark Wentworth, a U.S. Embassy spokesman in Islamabad, said six consulate employees — one U.S. Marine security guard and five Pakistani employees — suffered minor injuries when struck by debris.

He said the bomb exploded about 15 meters (50 feet) from the building, which sustained some structural damage. The U.S. flag was still waving in a light breeze on a flagpole inside the compound at the other end of the wall.

Sharif Ajnabi, a private security guard, was sitting in a park across the street from the consulate under a sweltering sun 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.”

Dozens of emergency workers and police secured the area and collected body parts that they put onto sheets stretched out on the ground. Ambulances shuttled the injured to nearby hospitals. What appeared to be wreckage from the car was stuck in a water fountain and in trees.

Police sealed off the normally quiet area. The heavily secured consulate always has four layers of Pakistani and American guards. The sidewalk in front of the consulate normally is blocked off and barricades shunt traffic away from lanes adjacent 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, the chief secretary of Sindh province, who visited the scene of carnage. “We have put this area under high alert and heavy security, but the terrorists struck.”

He would not comment on who might be responsible.

Karachi Mayor Naimat Ullah offered sympathy for U.S. officials and vowed to arrest those behind the attack.

“The terrorists have no religion. They are not Muslim. They are not human. They are just terrorists,” Ullah said.

Violence against foreigners by Islamic militants has increased since Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf threw his support behind the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.

Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was abducted and murdered in Karachi in January while working on a story about Islamic militants.

Suicide attacks — once unheard of here — have occurred twice. Both were believed to have been carried out by al-Qaida.

On March 17, a suicide grenade attack at a church in Islamabad’s diplomatic enclave killed five people, including two Americans.

Last month, 11 French engineers and three others were killed in a suicide bombing in front of a Karachi hotel less than a mile from Friday’s blast.

The United States withdrew all nonessential personnel and relatives of other staffers from Pakistan after the church bombing, and the British mission evacuated about 150 staff in late May after receiving “credible” information about a terrorist assault.

Also, in early June a diplomatic source said several hundred foreigners working for the United Nations in Pakistan were ordered