A suicide attacker rammed a car packed with explosives into a vehicle carrying an American diplomat in Pakistan’s largest city, killing four people — including the diplomat — ahead of President Bush’s visit to Pakistan.
Bush condemned the attack near the U.S. Consulate and a luxury hotel in Karachi, and said “terrorists and killers” would not prevent him from going to Pakistan on the final leg of his tour of South Asia.
“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 at a news conference in neighboring India, without naming the diplomat.
The American was identified by Pakistan officials as David Foy, Reuters reported. His driver, a Pakistani working for the consulate, and a Pakistani paramilitary trooper in the attack were also killed. A fourth body has not been identified, but police suspect it to be that of a suicide bomber.
The blast ripped through the parking lot of the Marriott Hotel, about 20 yards from the consulate gate, shattering windows at the consulate and on all 10 floors of the hotel. Ten cars were destroyed, and charred wreckage was flung as far as 200 yards.
Initial investigations showed a suicide attacker deliberately rammed his car into a vehicle carrying the U.S. diplomat, blowing it into the air, across a concrete barrier and into the grounds of the hotel, a Pakistani counterterrorism official and senior investigator said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
The attacker was also presumed killed in the attack, the two security officials said. His body was not recovered.
The counterterrorism official said the attacker used high-intensity explosives and it was the most powerful blast he’d seen in Karachi — a hotbed of Islamic militancy.
A Pakistani Foreign Ministry statement said the bombing was a “horrific terrorist attack” and it expressed “deep sadness” over the deaths of the American diplomat and his local driver.
“This senseless act today further fortifies our resolve to fight terrorism,” the statement said. “We all must work together to eliminate this terrible menace.”
Police initially said two car bombs had gone off, but provincial police chief Jahangir Mirza said that a single bomb may have triggered a second smaller explosion in a burning car.
No claim of responsibility
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. But previous attacks against Westerners in Karachi have been blamed on al-Qaida-linked Islamic militant groups. Several suspects have been convicted while some are still at large.
Some 52 people were injured, including a young Moroccan girl who was hit by debris, said provincial government spokesman Salahuddin Haider. He added that investigators were trying to get video footage from surveillance cameras at the consulate.
Nida Emmons, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, confirmed an American and Pakistani employee of the consulate were killed, but wouldn’t give their names. He said they were still investigating if any other consulate staff were hurt.
The bombing left a crater 8 feet wide and more than 2 feet deep. It propelled cars into the air and damaged nearby buildings, including a naval hospital. The street was strewn with mangled car parts.
Mohammed Ali, who sells cigarettes nearby, said the first explosion occurred around 9 a.m., knocking him down and flattening his wooden stall.
“Seconds later there was another explosion. We ran away to save our lives,” said Ali. “The explosions set cars on fire and there was smoke all around ... I thought the explosions would burst my ear drums.”
Mohammed Jameel, a former army colonel who was getting a medical checkup at the naval hospital, said the first explosion was “very intense” and the second one was smaller. “I saw two burning car seats land in the hospital lawn,” he said.
Attack linked to Bush's visit?
Officials said the bombing could be timed for Bush’s visit to Pakistan.
Bush will travel to the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, which lies about 1,000 miles north of Karachi, later this week. He made a surprise visit to Afghanistan on Wednesday before arriving in India.
“All international media are eyeing Pakistan at this time, and terrorists are using this to defame Pakistan and Muslims,” said Ishratul Ibab, the provincial governor.
Islamic militants have targeted the U.S. Consulate in Karachi before.
In June 2002, a car bombing left 14 Pakistanis dead outside the building, which lies in an upscale district of the sprawling city’s downtown.
In March 2004, police defused a huge bomb less than five minutes before it was timed to explode outside the consulate. The bomb was packed in a small van that was parked on a street near the building.
Marriott Hotel deputy manager Shahzad Ashif said windows were broken on all 10 floors in Thursday’s attack and balcony door latches were blown in on the first two floors but no guests were injured. The hotel was being evacuated and guests moved to other hotels, he said.