Pakistani police have defused a large car bomb planted outside the U.S. Consulate in the port city of Karachi. The attempted bombing comes as U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell prepares to visit the country.
Karachi police say the bomb would have caused serious damage to the consulate if not found in time.
A van containing the explosives was left in front of the embassy, with the driver claiming it had broken down. Police then discovered the bomb and towed the vehicle away before defusing the device.
The consulate had been the scene of a deadly bombing almost two years ago. That attack killed 12 people. Two policemen died in a shootout there early last year.
The latest incident comes as U.S. Secretary of State Powell is expected to visit Pakistan on Wednesday, although his itinerary does not include Karachi.
After a period of relative clam, Pakistan has seen a rise in terrorist incidents over the past several months, including two assassination attempts against the country's president and a deadly attack on a religious procession.
Pakistan has initiated a crackdown on local militant groups and has recently staged a series of operations aimed at foreign militants believed hiding in the country's semi-autonomous tribal area.
Local reports Monday said another operation is imminent, but military spokesman, Major General Shaukat Sultan Khan, says such actions are rarely planned in advance. "You get the information, intelligence, and then you go in for the operation," he says. "So, I can't give you the forecast whether an operation is going to be run."
Tribal militias in Pakistan's South Waziristan agency (district) have, meanwhile, been conducting their own hunt for suspected terrorists, amid pressure from the central government.
Members of the al-Qaida terror network and Afghan insurgents are believed to be using remote districts of Pakistan as a safe haven.