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Attack Foiled at American Consulate

Police in Karachi, Pakistan, disable a powerful bomb minutes before it was timed to explode. Islamic extremists are suspected.

March 16, 2004|From Associated Press

KARACHI, Pakistan — Pakistani police defused a large bomb inside a parked van Monday less than five minutes before it was timed to detonate outside the U.S. Consulate here.

It was not clear who was behind the thwarted attack in Karachi, the scene of several anti-Western bombings since the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States. But suspicions immediately focused on Islamic extremists blamed for previous bombings.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said an investigation was underway.

"We would praise the very alert and courageous action of all those involved in detecting and responding to what could have been a horrific explosion," he said. "I think this shows that counter-terrorism cooperation is effective and can work."

The bomb was discovered two days before Secretary of State Colin L. Powell was to visit Pakistan, but Ereli declined to speculate on whether there was any connection.

Powell's itinerary does not include Karachi.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has enraged radicals by supporting the U.S.-led war on terrorism.

Pakistani police, using footage from surveillance cameras at the consulate, said a man dressed in a traditional tunic parked the van outside the heavily guarded consulate and fled in a waiting car after a paramilitary guard challenged him.

Inside the van, police bomb disposal experts found a plastic water tank containing about 200 gallons of a liquid explosive mix -- including the combustible fertilizer chemical ammonium nitrate -- attached to detonators and a timer.

They moved the bomb to a safe location and defused it. A police investigator, Qazi Chand, said that "only 4 1/2 minutes were left for the bomb to detonate."

In June 2002, a suicide bomber blew up a truck in front of the consulate, killing 11 Pakistanis. In February 2003, a gunman opened fire on a police post guarding the diplomatic mission, killing two policemen and injuring at least five other people.

Four men who allegedly belonged to the outlawed Islamic militant group Harkat-ul-Mujahedin al-Almi were convicted last year in the 2002 bombing. Two were sentenced to death and two to life in prison.

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