U.S. Consulate employee dies in Pakistan bombing

American among 4 killed, 52 injured in Karachi attack, a day before Bush due to visit

March 03, 2006|By KIM BARKER | KIM BARKER,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- A car bomb exploded yesterday near the U.S. Consulate in the coastal city of Karachi, killing an American diplomat and three Pakistanis and injuring 52, a day before President Bush is scheduled to visit the country.

Bush condemned the attack at a news conference in neighboring India. He said "terrorists and killers" would not stop him from visiting Pakistan, a major U.S. ally in the war on terrorism.

"We have lost at least one U.S. citizen in the bombing, a Foreign Service officer, and I send our country's deepest condolences to that person's loved ones and family," Bush said.

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad later verified that an American assigned to the consulate in Karachi was killed, along with a Pakistani employee. The American's driver and an unidentified woman were also killed, authorities said. The embassy identified the diplomat as David Foy, a facilities maintenance officer at the consulate.

The Associated Press reported that a suicide bomber rammed his car into the American diplomat's vehicle.

But police said they still were investigating. Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told reporters in Islamabad that it was premature to say whether a suicide attacker was to blame. Security officials are reviewing pictures from surveillance cameras outside the consulate and the neighboring Marriott Hotel, Ahmed said. He stressed that the country would beef up security for Bush's visit.

News services reported that the attacker was blocked from driving into the U.S. Consulate and instead targeted the diplomat's car, which had special red license plates.

As of last night, no one had claimed responsibility for the blast, which threw wreckage as far as 200 yards and left a huge crater. Capt. Mir Zubair, a spokesman for the Karachi police, said he was not certain whether the blast was timed to Bush's visit.

"We can't say anything for sure," Zubair said. "We're looking at all possibilities."

A Pakistani Foreign Ministry statement called the bombing a "horrific terrorist attack."

"This senseless act today further fortifies our resolve to fight terrorism," the ministry said. "We all must work together to eliminate this terrible menace."

Pakistan has been on the front lines of the war on terrorism, and its president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, has faced increasing pressure from Islamic fundamentalists over his alliance with the United States. He has survived two assassination attempts.

Although no major deals are expected to be signed, Bush's visit is in part seen as a thank-you to Musharraf for his support.

Terrorists often have targeted the U.S. Consulate in Karachi and the nearby Marriott Hotel. In 2002, a suicide bomber blew up a van on the main road leading to the consulate, killing 14 Pakistanis. The same year, 11 French engineers were killed in a bombing outside the hotel.

The main road to the consulate was closed, but in 2003, a gunman shot and killed two police officers guarding the mission. In 2004, a chemical bomb in an abandoned van was defused outside consulate walls, two days before the U.S. secretary of state arrived in Pakistan.

Most of these attacks have been blamed on Islamic militant groups linked to al-Qaida.

The explosion yesterday was near the parking lot of the Marriott, just off the back road leading to the consulate, about 20 yards from consulate walls.

Kim Barker writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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