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Wednesday, 8 May, 2002, 16:27 GMT 17:27 UK
French horror at suicide bomb attack
Wrecked bus in Karachi
The blast tore through the workers' bus
French President Jacques Chirac has led the nation in its shocked response to the deaths of at least 10 French construction workers in a bomb attack in Pakistan.


French people who were carrying out their work of co-operation were the victims of an odious, cowardly terrorist attack

President Chirac
About 12 other French people were also injured in the attack. Some of them are described as critically injured.

Senior French officials say the attack may have been carried out by the al-Qaeda network.

Within hours of the blast, other expatriate workers with the same shipbuilders, DCN - a division of the French Defence Ministry - were recalled.

President Chirac
A grim-faced President Chirac condemned the attack
Many of the French victims were working on a joint French-Pakistani project to build three submarines.

Mr Chirac condemned the attack as "odious".

"Terror and hatred have struck again," the president said in a statement.

"I reaffirm the determination of France to put everything in place to fight against international terrorism.

"French people who were carrying out their work of co-operation in Karachi, Pakistan, were the victims of an odious, cowardly terrorist attack."


Security measures had been strengthened and then, in agreement with the Pakistanis, reduced slightly, but overall they remained very vigilant

Defence Ministry spokesman
New Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, who took office only on Tuesday evening, was despatched immediately to Karachi.

Many of the French victims are thought to have come from Cherbourg, in northern France, and Brest, in the west.

The construction workers had been temporarily withdrawn from Pakistan after the 11 September attacks.

But in January it was judged that it was safe for them to return, and they resumed their work. Defence Ministry officials said there was no known specific threat against the workers.

Security had even been eased slightly, said Defence Ministry spokesman Jean-Francois Bureau.

"Since 11 September security measures had repeatedly been taken," he said.

Route varied

"They had been strengthened and then, in agreement with the Pakistanis, reduced slightly, but overall they remained very vigilant."

He said security measures included frequently varying the route taken by the bus.

The company also confirmed that no specific threat had been known about.

Laurent Barthelemy, director of the naval construction service.
Barthelemy: No specific threat was known
"We have always organised security measures based on the information we have, and I can confirm that until last night, we did not have any information leading us to believe there was an increase in risk," said Laurent Barthelemy, director of the naval construction service.

The French Government was aware of the potential risks in Pakistan, said General Jean-Pierre Kelche, the chief of staff of France's armed forces.

"We knew that we were in a very delicate period because we've been thinking that the terrorist networks didn't want to sit idly by after the defeats they've recently suffered," he said on French radio.

Condolences

The French president also expressed his condolences to the families of those who died, and called on the Pakistani authorities to "take the necessary security measures for the French community, and to do everything possible to find and punish those responsible for this terrorist act".

The car bomb went off outside the Sheraton Hotel, where the French workers had been staying.

Four other people also died in the attack, among them the suicide bomber.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's David Shukman
"What should have been a normal journey to work ended in tragedy"
The BBC's Zaffar Abbas in Islamabad
"Police believe there is a possibility that members of Al-Qaeda may have been involved"
Brian Waddle, New Zealand radio commentator
"I just felt the windows shudder, heard a loud boom then the windows blew out"
See also:

08 May 02 | South Asia
Musharraf condemns Karachi blast
08 May 02 | Cricket
Kiwis cancel cricket tour
08 May 02 | South Asia
In pictures: Karachi blast
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