Gunmen Kill Two Police Officers Outside U.S. Consulate in Pakistan

Gunmen opened fire on a police post guarding the U.S. Consulate in Karachi on Friday, killing two policemen and injuring at least five others, police and hospital officials said.

Police arrested one of the assailants and took his gun after chasing him through a nearby park. The man was identified as an Afghan, officers said.

An unknown number of gunmen were in the park when they fired on the police post next to the heavily fortified U.S. mission.

The shooting occurred as midday prayers were to begin and several of the policemen were preparing to pray, said police officers at the site. The gunmen used pistols and automatic rifles. Among the wounded was a pedestrian caught in the crossfire.

No Americans were wounded in the attack. "The consulate is very well protected and all the Americans were inside," Police Chief Kamal Shah told reporters outside the U.S. building.

U.S. Consul General John Bauman said a camera mounted on the outside of the building recorded the shooting, according to police who spoke to him.

Bauman ventured outside the consulate briefly to inspect the site and meet police officers.

"We are trying to get details from the Pakistani authorities about it," said Terry White, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. "I understand the local police are investigating it, and we hope they will be able to determine who were the attackers and what was their purpose."

The United States already has evacuated family members from Pakistan as have most foreign missions here. A U.S. Embassy worker and her daughter were killed last March in an attack on a nondenominational church in the Pakistani capital.

"We are very security conscious, fortunately we are getting excellent cooperation from the Pakistani security agencies," White said.

Pakistan's Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said his government was saddened by the attack and the deaths of the policemen.

"This is a tragic incident," Ahmed said in an interview with The Associated Press. "We are a target for terrorists. These people, whoever they are, are enemies of our country and are out to harm Pakistan's image."

Security has been intense around the U.S. facility since a bombing last June killed 12 people, all Pakistanis. Cement barricades stop vehicles from entering the area, set up to prevent car bombings. High walls surround the consulate and entry and exit from the building is closely guarded.

Five suspects accused of masterminding the June bombing are on trial in the southern port city, charged with conspiracy, murder and terrorism. They face the death penalty if convicted.

The car bombing was one of a series of attacks on foreigners and minority Christians in Pakistan since President Gen. Pervez Musharraf threw his support behind the U.S.-led war against terrorism.

There has been a great deal of public outrage over a possible war on Iraq and warnings of violence should Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf support the United States against Baghdad.

Both Washington and Baghdad have sent envoys to Pakistan to try to get Islamabad's support at the United Nations for a resolution that could pave the way for war with Iraq.

On Sunday, Pakistan's rightwing religious groups plan to hold anti-war demonstrations in Karachi and again on March 9 in Rawalpindi.

In recent days, Karachi has been battered by violent, religiously motivated attacks. Last weekend, nine Shiite Muslims were gunned down outside their mosque in Karachi. On Thursday in two separate shooting incidents, two Iranian Shiite Muslims were killed by gunmen who sprayed their bakery with bullets and a Sunni Muslim cleric was shot and killed.