Saturday, June 15, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Karachi blast leaves 11 dead
India condemns attack on US consulate

Karachi, June 14
Suspected Islamic militants today carried out a suicide attack on the US consulate here by crashing an explosive-laden car just outside the heavily fortified building killing 11 persons and injuring 40 others, a day after US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s visit to Pakistan.

The explosion that occurred around 11.15 am local time (10.45 am IST) destroyed a portion of the boundary wall, created a large crater and shattered windowpanes of the consulate and nearby buildings.

All dead were Pakistani nationals, including five women and the suicide bomber. Among the injured were six consulate employees, including an American, police sources said.

The bomb went off just as the bustling southern metropolis was gearing up for Friday prayers.

According to the local police, the unidentified suicide bomber driving a high-roofed white Suzuki van packed with explosives brought the vehicle near the police checkpost that demarcated the US consulate and Marriott Hotel and exploded.

About two dozen vehicles and a number of motor cycles and scooters, besides police vehicles near Marriott Hotel and the consulate were severly damaged.

No one has claimed responsibility for the blast, which occurred over a month after a suicide bomber struck outside Sheraton Hotel in this port city killing 14 persons, including 11 French nationals.

The police suspected the involvement of the Al-Qaida in the Sheraton blast.

The Pakistan Government has condemned the attack and said it was too early to say who the target was.

The shopping area of Marriott Hotel was also badly damaged while windowpanes of hotel rooms, lobbies and restaurants were shattered.

The police found five bodies intact while body parts of three others were strewn.

The local authorities rushed to the scene and so did the army, navy, police and Rangers and cordoned off the area.

The area surrounding the consulate is heavily guarded and the authorities recently reopened the road in front of the building which had been closed for security reasons.

President Pervez Musharraf has been under considerable pressure from militants after he assured the USA that he will not allow cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir from the Pakistani soil.

Hardline Jammat-e-Islami has warned him of any “underhand deal” on Kashmir. One of its leaders was quoted by the Nation daily as saying “General Musharraf was giving in to American pressure on the Kashmir issue.” He warned that the country would throw him out of power if he kept people of Pakistan in the dark on any deal on the Kashmir issue.

In March, a grenade attack on a church near the US Embassy left five persons, including two Americans — wife and daughter of an American diplomat — killed.

The USA had withdrawn most of the non-essential staff at its missions in Pakistan in the wake of growing tension between India and Pakistan.

New Delhi: India on Friday condemned the car bomb attack on the US consulate in Pakistan which claimed eight lives and said this was yet another terrorist act by suicide bombers in Karachi.

“It is a very sad and a very regrettable incident and we condemn it fully. This is yet another terrorist activity by suicide bomb variety that has taken place in Karachi,” External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh told reporters after a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security here. PTI


US consulate in Karachi shut down

Karachi, June 14
The US consulate in Karachi was shut down today after a car bomb explosion outside it killed seven persons and wounded 40 others.

US Embassy spokesman Mark Wentworth said in Islamabad that a US Marine guard and five Pakistani employees of the consulate sustained minor injuries and the consulate building some structural damage.

“This explosion is a stark reminder again to all Americans living in travelling through Pakistan of the need to pay attention to their personal security situation,” he said in a statement.

“For the near future, the consulate in Karachi will not be open to the public for consular and other routine business,” the statement said.

Hospital sources in Karachi said the number of dead might rise as pieces of bodies picked up from the site were still being put together.

“Apparently it was a car bomb, identical to the attack last month on French technicians at Sheraton Hotel,” said Home Secretary Mukhtar Sheikh and Kamal Shah, IGP of Sindh province of which Karachi is the capital.

Islamic extremists, angry with Pakistani military government’s support to the USA war against terrorism, were suspected to be behind the attacks.

Witnesses said the explosives-packed car exploded while skirting a barricade and a police checkpoint in the high security area in which the US consulate is located.

Most of the victims were believed to be pedestrians. The dead included two policemen and a woman who was riding a motorcycle with her husband.

Over 12 passing cars were damaged by the explosion. Cars are not allowed to park in the heavily guarded and barricaded area.

It was the second car bomb attack on Western targets in Karachi in five weeks.

However, it could not be said, “at this point of time”, whether the two attacks were connected, or were carried out by the same group, they said. DPA

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