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Karachi bomb 'terrorist murders' -- Bush

The New Zealand cricket team has pulled out of its tour following the blast
The New Zealand cricket team has pulled out of its tour following the blast  

KARACHI, Pakistan (CNN) -- U.S. President George W. Bush has labeled as "terrorist murders" a suspected suicide bombing in Pakistan that killed at least 14 people.

Eleven French nationals and three Pakistanis died when an explosion ripped through a bus outside an upscale Karachi hotel in Pakistan early Wednesday.

At least 23 others, including at least 12 French nationals, were wounded in the blast just before 8 a.m. (10 p.m. ET Tuesday), according to Pakistani officials.

"On behalf of the American people, I extend my condolences to the families of the victims, and the people of Pakistan and France, whose citizens were killed in this attack," President Bush said.

"Today's attack underscores the dangers all our citizens and societies continue to face from such attacks, and strengthens our resolve to continue working together to fight terrorism at home and abroad," he said.

French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie has visited the French survivors of a bomb attack in Pakistan that left 14 people dead.

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Pakistani police say a bomb ripped through a bus in Karachi, killing at least 11 people, most of them foreign nationals. CNN's Ash-Har Quraishi reports.

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Memon said: "We condemn this act of terrorism. We will (catch) those who were responsible for this act."

"We arrested the killers of Daniel Pearl, an American journalist, and we will act similarly in this case."

Earlier, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher condemned the bombing saying France and Pakistan were two of the U.S.'s "closest allies in the global war on terrorism".

Police are now investigating whether the French people were the intended targets.

Officials from France's Department of Defense said they had not received any threats against French citizens.

In Paris, a French Defense Ministry official was asked if France suspected the al Qaeda terrorist organization was linked to the explosion. The official said he would not rule that out, but he added it was too soon to say.

A U.S. official said Wednesday that while the bombing was "not necessarily" the work of the terrorist group al Qaeda, Pakistani radical groups typically have not used bus bombings as a method of attack.

"There hasn't been a car or bus bombing in Pakistan in years," the official said, adding that Pakistani extremists usually use small arms, grenades or small explosives.

"This one was quite sizable," the official said.

He added that the possibility that it was a suicide bombing also separated the attack from most other terrorist attacks in Pakistan.

The U.S. official said there appeared to be a "growing extremism" in Pakistan over President Pervez Musharraf's cooperation with the United States in the war on terrorism.

"This was likely an attack on Pakistan," the official said.

Many Pakistanis have criticized Musharraf's willingness to aid the U.S. in its effort to remove the Taliban regime and al Qaeda, blamed for the September 11 attacks, from neighboring Afghanistan.

"At this time we are strongly warning Americans not to go to Pakistan," a U.S. State Department official said, adding that Americans living there should consider leaving the country.

Police believe a car bomb detonated in a vehicle parked near the bus outside the Karachi Sheraton Hotel.

Submarine project

Police and bomb disposal squad examine the site of the blast
Police and bomb disposal squad examine the site of the blast  

The bus had picked up a group of French workers at another hotel before stopping at the Sheraton, Karachi Police Inspector Gen. Syed Kamal Shah said.

The bomb shattered windows in two nearby hotels in the upscale Karachi neighborhood and caused a crater in the road.

French President Jacques Chirac condemned the attack and announce he was sending newly appointed Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie to Karachi.

Officials in the French Defense Ministry said most of the victims were part of a group of French engineers constructing a submarine for Pakistan as part of a joint naval project.

Two French officials were traveling to Karachi to bring home the bodies of the 11 construction engineers.

The French have built one submarine and are working on two others under a 1994 contract between the French Defense Ministry's Direction de Construction Navale and Pakistan.

Not unusual

Only a few of the original 38-member team will remain in Pakistan.

Bomb blasts are not unusual in Karachi, which is torn by religious and political strife.

In March, a grenade attack on a church near the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad left five people dead, including two Americans -- the wife and daughter of a U.S. diplomat.

Recently, a series of bomb blasts injured a dozen people following last week's referendum granting Musharraf another five years in power.

Karachi is also where Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and later killed earlier this year.

CNN Islamabad Bureau Chief Ash-har Quraishi, CNN's Rym Brahimi, Brussels-based CNN Consultant Claude Moniquet and CNN State Department Producer Elise Labott contributed to this report




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