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Karachi bomb kills at least 2 before Bush visit

Written by: Staff
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KARACHI, March 2 (Reuters) A car bomb outside the Marriott Hotel and US consulate in Karachi today killed at least two people and wounded 18, security and hospital officials said.

The bomb exploded on a road used for parking behind the hotel and comes just days before US President George W Bush was due to visit Pakistan.

Brigadier Taqdees Lodhi, an officer of the paramilitary Rangers, said the explosives had been hidden in a parked car, and several cars were ablaze in the street. The blast occurred about 30 metres from the consulate.

''It was a bomb blast,'' said Shazia Khan, a spokeswoman for the Marriott.

Police said two people were killed, one of them a security guard.

A Reuters reporter at the scene saw wounded being carried away by ambulance, including a child who appeared to be a foreigner. Hospitals had received at least 18 wounded, doctors said.

Witnesses said they heard a second, smaller blast but it was unclear whether that too was a bomb blast.

Hotel windows were shattered, as were those of buildings for hundreds of metres around.

Islamist opposition parties have organised a national day of protest on Friday against cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad published in Europe and deemed blasphemous.

While the cartoons were never published in the United States, demonstrations over the past few weeks have morphed into expressions of anti-US sentiment and anger with President Pervez Musharraf's government, and his alliance with the United States in a war on terrorism.

REUTERS KD SP1116

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