The assailant rammed a white vehicle carrying the powerful bomb into the guard post at the southern end of the consulate around 11:15 am (1:15 am EDT), police said.
The crash was followed by an explosion that blew a 10-foot hole in the perimeter wall, exploded all the windows at the consulate, and scattered debris up to a half-mile away. Nearly forty-five people were injured by the blast, police said.
No Americans were reported killed, but one U.S. Marine guard and five Pakistani employees, who were all inside the compound at the time, sustained minor injuries from flying debris, State Department spokeswoman Lynn Cassel told the Associated Press.
The victims included at least four Pakistani policemen stationed around the consulate, four women and one man who were nearby, police said.
The heavily fortified consulate in Karachi was open at the time of the attack, but working with a reduced staff of 28 employees since the State Department’s evacuation of its non-essential personnel and family members from Pakistan last month. The State Department has also warned U.S. citizens against traveling in the country, citing threats of terrorist attacks against Americans.
The State Department said Friday all U.S. offices in Pakistan, including the U.S. embassy in Islamabad, will be temporarily closed while officials reevaluate security issues and decide whether to send home more of its staff.
“We have shut down all consulates and the embassy for the day and through the weekend while we review the security situation,” State Department spokeswoman Jo-Anne Prokopowicz told Reuters. “Once that is done we will reassess the situation and go from there.”
President Bush was informed of the bombing early Friday as he traveled to Ohio, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said.
“This is a vivid reminder of the fact that our nation is at war. Terrorists will use whatever means are at their disposal, no matter how despicable, to harm Americans and others,” Fleischer said.
When asked if the U.S. believed Osama bin Laden’s extremist al-Qaida network was responsible for the attack, Fleischer responded: “I have not heard anything definitive.”
This bombing comes just one day after U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld held talks in Pakistan with President Pervez Musharraf about controlling Islamic militants in the region. U.S. officials said they believed Musharraf was fully cooperating.
No person or group has claimed responsibility and authorities have not named any suspects.
Last month, less than a mile away from today’s blast, 14 people, including 11 French engineers, were killed in another suicide bombing. No one claimed responsibility for that attack either.