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Bomb Kills Four Outside U.S. Consulate in Pakistan


MONTAGNE: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Steve Inskeep.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: Terrorists and killers are not going to prevent me from going to Pakistan. My trip to Pakistan is an important trip.

INSKEEP: President Bush spoke this morning after a car bomb struck outside the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan. The explosion killed a number of people, including at least one American. It happened two days before the president arrived in Pakistan as part of his tour of South Asia.

NPR's Don Gonyea is traveling with the president. And, Don, how did people respond to this attack?

DON GONYEA, reporting:

Well there was condemnation of the attack. The president, of course, has cultivated a partnership fighting terrorism with Pakistan's President Musharraf. And he really did make it clear, as we heard in that clip of tape you played, that he will not be changing his schedule. That he is still going to Pakistan. That's scheduled for Saturday, the last day of this trip. It's also worth noting here though that Karachi, where the bombing took place, is some 700 or so miles south of Islamabad where the president will be. But again, Pakistan is important for security reasons. There are reports that Osama Bin Laden and Mullah Omar the Taliban leader are hiding out in the mountains in the border there near Afghanistan. So symbolically, it's very important that the president get to Pakistan.

INSKEEP: A reminder that the U.S. has both allies and enemies in that country.

GONYEA: That's right, that's right and there are also reports that some of the insurgent and terrorist attacks that we're seeing in Afghanistan are being staged by al-Qaida and Taliban resistance based in Pakistan. So again, all of that will be on the docket when the president is there Saturday.

INSKEEP: NPR'S Don Gonyea is in New Delhi, India, where there is much news today. And Don, we'll come back to you in a moment.

MONTAGNE: And for more on that bombing, we're joined by Kamran Khan, a reporter based in Karachi. Hello.

KAMRAN KHAN reporting:

Hi there.

MONTAGNE: Could you please describe the scene for us there?

KHAN: The suicide bomber had entered from behind the portal(ph) Marriot in downtown Karachi and he was approaching the United States Consulate General building when he was intercepted by a security van. And he rammed his car into the security van and his car turned into a huge fireball and it engulfed about 18 cars around. And then the outer walls of a naval hospital, which is also in the vicinity, collapsed. So it's a scene of total destruction.

MONTAGNE: President Bush is not going actually anywhere near Karachi. He's going to the capital, Islamabad. What sort of reception is he likely to get when he arrives in Pakistan this Saturday?

KHAN: It is not going to be much different from any other country, particularly a Muslim country. You know, a U.S. president is not very, very welcome in Muslim countries. And, as you saw in India also, there were huge demonstrations. So the officials are very excited and they know it's very important and obviously, a lot of business community and intelligencia think this visit is important. But as you talk about general people, masses, particularly after this cartoon controversy, Bush or any western leader, they're not very, very popular here.

MONTAGNE: Let's get back, just briefly, to the question of Karachi. It is known to be something of a hotbed of militants.

KAHN: In fact, yes this was the case more so a few years ago, and then we saw a big crackdown and a continuous effort by the security agencies. Within the past two years, we didn't see a major terrorist incident as we saw before that.

Karachi is known for these terrorist acts. We had some spectacular terrorist incidents. The U.S. Consulate was bombed in June 2002, the Sheraton Hotel was bombed where French engineers were killed. These were the incidents; but all of those people who were involved in those incidents were actually caught and they're being punished.

But this is, as the officials say here, that they've not been able to root out each and every terrorist or militant element in the city. It's a city of 12 million people or so. So this has come again as a rude awakening for us.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for talking with us.

KHAN: Sure.

MONTAGNE: Kamran Khan is a reporter speaking to us from Karachi, Pakistan. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.