RAWALPINDI, Pakistan – The Al Qaeda terror network financed the car bombing at the U.S. Consulate in Karachi that killed at least 12 people, Pakistan's interior minister said Tuesday.
"We know Al Qaeda was behind the attack on the U.S. Consulate," Moinuddin Haider told reporters. "We have credible information that Al Qaeda financed it."
Haider, who is in charge of police and internal security, did not elaborate. Officials had previously suggested Al Qaeda had either carried out the June 14 attack or that it was done by Pakistani Islamic extremists with ties to the network.
U.S. officials haven't ruled out the possibility that Al Qaeda was involved in the Karachi consulate attack, but don't have information to substantiate the charge, according to a U.S. official in Washington who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Haider said the attack, as well as the January kidnap-slaying of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl and a May car-bombing that killed 11 French engineers, were retribution for the country's support for the U.S.-led war against terrorism.
"Some foreigners who were living in Afghanistan in the past have entered Pakistan. They are not happy with our support to America. We know these elements killed Daniel Pearl and French nationals," Haider said. "We know they were also behind attack on U.S. Consulate."
Nevertheless, Haider said Pakistan would continue to support the United States.
Twelve Pakistanis were killed and 50 injured in the consulate blast. Pakistani police, working with FBI agents, have said the attack was carried out with a 222-pound car bomb. They are not sure whether the device was detonated by remote control or the work of a suicide bomber.
Pakistan authorities have detained scores of Islamic militant suspects in the past two weeks, including some foreigners. None have been charged.
Authorities last week released photos of 11 militants suspected in the two blasts and Pearl's killing and posted $320,000 in rewards for help in their capture.
Pakistan became a key U.S. ally in the international coalition against terrorism when President Gen. Pervez Musharraf cut ties with Afghanistan's former Taliban regime after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. The Taliban and its Al Qaeda patrons were ousted last year by Afghan coalition forces backed by U.S. bombing.
Since then, Musharraf's government has been facing a backlash from religious extremists, who accuse him of selling out his Islamic country to the West.
Haider said between 12 and 14 FBI agents have been assisting in the bombing investigation, and that others were in the tribal belt along the Pakistani-Afghan border where officials believe Al Qaeda and Taliban remnants may be holed up.
Underlining the sensitivity of the Americans' role, Haider stressed that the FBI's involvement was limited to gathering and passing intelligence to Pakistani security forces.
"We hope FBI men who have also come here for investigating the bomb attack on American consulate will leave the country very soon," Haider said.
Haider's remarks came as some 3,000 Pakistani troops searched for the seventh day for a group of about 40 Al Qaeda suspects who escaped a gunfight with government troops in the tribal zone. Ten Pakistani soldiers were killed, along with two Al Qaeda members.