Pakistani police officials run inside a building after a bomb blast in Karachi
Car bomb kills 3 outside KFC in Karachi - police
Tue Nov 15, 2005 6:44 AM ET
By Aamir Ashraf
KARACHI (Reuters) - A car bomb exploded outside a KFC fast-food restaurant in the Pakistani city of Karachi on Tuesday, killing three people and wounding 15 in an attack thought to have been carried out by Islamist militants, police and doctors said.
Some victims suffered severe burns in the bombing, which blew a meter-wide (3-feet-wide) hole in the street and engulfed it in a fireball that gutted six or seven other parked cars in the center of the southern city, Pakistan's commercial hub.
"I thought it was an earthquake," said security guard Hassan Ali, being treated in hospital for head injuries and bandaged over his left eye. He said he had passed out during the blast.
Provincial authorities said they suspected Islamist militants might be to blame and cast doubt on a claim of responsibility by a separatist group from nearby Baluchistan province which said it had targeted an office of a state-run Pakistani oil company.
A small Suzuki sedan blew up just before 9 a.m. (0400 GMT), gutting the restaurant on the ground floor of the six-storey office block, and shattering all the windows in the building which houses several oil and gas exploration firms, including Pakistan Petroleum Ltd (PPL) which runs Pakistan's largest gas field in Baluchistan.
"Indications are that extremist and militant organizations could be involved in the blast. The blast got instant publicity the world over and that's what the militants want," said Salahuddin Haider, spokesman for the Sindh provincial government in Karachi.
Police said they had found some clues from security cameras mounted on the Pakistan Industrial Development Corp building, which houses the KFC outlet and is also near two luxury hotels and the home of Sindh province's chief minister. England's touring cricket team is due to stay in the area next month.
"This is an act of terrorism and apparently the KFC was the target," Manzoor Mughal, chief of investigation for Karachi police, told Reuters.
The restaurant was shut at the time, but the street, one of Karachi's busiest, was full of people arriving for work.
Two security guards for the Muslim Commercial Bank died at once and a third died later in hospital, police said.
Doctors said six people had been admitted to hospital in a critical condition, some with severe burns. The materials used, 5 kg (11 lb) of military-style RDX explosive and gunpowder, made the blast particularly intense, police added.
Two other KFC restaurants, a Pakistani franchise of the global food chain owned by YUM Brands Inc, have been attacked in Karachi in recent months.
BLAST FOLLOWS CRACKDOWN
President Pervez Musharraf ordered a crackdown in July on militant groups, particularly those fuelling hatred between Pakistan's majority Sunni Muslims and minority Shi'ites.
Some Sunni militant groups, infuriated by Musharraf siding with the United States in its war on terrorism, have forged ties with Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.
Karachi police said any of several Islamist militant groups targeted in the crackdown could have carried out the attack, but authorities were not ruling out any options. "It will be premature to blame anybody for this," Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao told local television.
Another KFC restaurant and a McDonald's outlet came under attack in September in Karachi. Two bombs exploded in quick succession in those attacks, injuring at least two people.
In May, six KFC employees were burned to death when their restaurant was torched by a mob during an outbreak of Muslim sectarian violence, which has plagued the city for years.
England's cricket team is due to play a one-day international in Karachi on December 15. The tourists only agreed to play there after much persuasion from Pakistan's cricket authorities.
In May 2002, New Zealand's cricket team flew home without playing a test after a suicide bomb attack on a bus outside its Karachi hotel. That blast killed 11 French naval technicians.
(Additional reporting by Simon Cameron-Moore and Mark Bendeic