4 die, 52 hurt in big Karachi blast
Karachi, March 2: A car bombing possibly launched by a suicide attacker killed four people, including an American diplomat, and wounded 52 outside the US consulate and a luxury hotel in Karachi on Thursday, ahead of a visit to Pakistan by the US President, the police said. President George W. Bush condemned the attack and said “terrorists and killers” would not prevent him from coming to Pakistan this week on the final leg of a tour of South Asia.
The blast ripped through the parking lot of the Marriott Hotel, about 20 metres from the consulate gate, shattering windows at the consulate and on all 10 floors of the hotel. Ten cars were destroyed, casting flames and clouds of thick black smoke over the scene.
“We have lost at least one US citizen in the bombing, a foreign service officer, and I send our country’s deepest condolences to that person’s loved ones and family,” Mr Bush said in neighbouring in India.
“Terrorists and killers are not going to prevent me from going to Pakistan.” The police initially said two car bombs had gone off, but provincial police chief Jahangir Mirza said a single bomb by a suicide attacker may have triggered a second smaller explosion when a burning car’s fuel tank caught fire. “There is a possibility that this could be a suicide attack but we are still investigating,” Mr Mirza said.
Mr Shabbir Qaimkhani, the provincial health minister, said four were killed and the casualties included a woman who died of her injuries in a hospital. He said 49 others were wounded. The American diplomat and his driver were killed when their car was hit by a blast at a road block near the consulate entrance, about four metres (yards) from where the bomb went off, Pakistani police investigator said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to make media statements.
The bombing left a crater two metres wide and more than 60 centimetres deep. The explosion propelled cars into the air and damaged other nearby buildings, including a naval hospital, and left the street strewn with mangled car parts.
One man’s body, with part of its head missing, was flung by onto the second story of the hotel’s exterior. Mohammed Ali, who sells cigarettes nearby, said the first explosion occurred around 9 am, knocking him down and flattening his wooden stall. “Seconds later there was another explosion. We ran away to save our lives,” said Mohammed Ali. “The explosions set cars on fire and there was smoke all around ... I thought the explosions would burst my ear drums.”
Mohammed Jammed, 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 a comparatively smaller. “I saw two burning car seats land in the hospital lawn,” Col. Jammed said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blasts. The bombings occurred a day or two before Mr Bush was to visit the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.