U.S. Condemns Consulate Bombing; More Staff Cutbacks Likely

The Bush administration on Friday condemned as "deplorable" an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, that killed 10 people and injured many more, including one U.S. Marine guard and five Pakistani employees of the United States.

President Bush was briefed on the bombing first thing in the morning, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said as the president traveled to Ohio.

"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.

Asked if Al Qaeda terrorists were responsible, Fleischer said: "I have not heard anything definitive on who may be behind it."

State Department officials said they would evaluate anew how many U.S. personnel to keep in Pakistan, after a homicide bomber crashed a bomb-laden car into a guard post at the southern end of the consulate compound.

They have already cited strong threats against Americans in Pakistan, sent home many U.S. employees and urged other Americans to leave.

"It's a deplorable act of terrorism and our condolences go to the families of the victims, and we wish a full and speedy recovery to all those injured," said White House spokesman Sean McCormack.

The Marine guard and five Pakistani employees of the consulate, all inside the compound at the time, received slight injuries in the blast, said State Department spokeswoman Lynn Cassel.

In addition, at least two and maybe more Pakistani guards working for the consulate were injured, she said.

The consulate was open for business at the time of the attack, working with an already severely reduced staff because of previous evacuations of some employees and family members ordered by the State Department.

Earlier this year, an embassy employee and her teenage daughter were killed in an attack on a church near the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad.

All family members and many employees were ordered home after that.

The consulate in Karachi was operating with 28 U.S. government employees at the time of the blast, including the Marine guards and some employees on temporary assignment, Cassel said.

Security at the consulate already had been very high, Cassel said, but officials will now once evaluate it again, and also see if staffing should be cut even more throughout the country, she said.

"In a situation like this, we are constantly reviewing our staffing levels," Cassel said.

Ordinary, Americans are already strongly urged to leave the country, she said.

The Pakistani government is cooperating fully in the investigation, and has been providing extra security, she said.

"They're doing whatever they can," Cassel said.

The windows of the consulate were blown out and there was some structural damage from the blast, Cassel said.