Powerful car bomb exploded outside the front entrance to a KFC restaurant in the southern Pakistan city of Karachi on Tuesday, killing at least three people and injuring 12 others, police said. The blast, which occurred at about 8:45 a.m., badly damaged the restaurant, part of the global American fast food chain, and burned several cars on the street in front.
Mushtaq Shah, Karachi's police chief, told reporters the bomb was concealed in a car parked outside the restaurant.
Another police official, Sanaullah Abbasi, said three people were killed in the blast and 12 injured.
The bomb struck as commuters were heading to offices and shops in the crowded business hub. Hundreds of people gathered at the site near the Pearl Intercontinental Hotel, which is popular with foreign tourists and businesspeople.
"The KFC building is burning, six cars have caught fire and injured people are lying on the road," said Saeed Mohammad, a traffic police official who rushed to the scene after hearing the blast.
Karachi, Pakistan's largest city, is a center of Muslim militancy and previous bombings in the city have been linked to Islamic extremists opposed to Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's close ties to the United States. Pakistan has been a key U.S. ally in the struggle against Muslim extremists linked to al-Qaida and Afghanistan's former Taliban regime.
Pakistan's information minister, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, condemned the blast, calling it the work of the "enemies of Pakistan."
The restaurant occupies the ground floor of a government office building housing the Pakistan Industrial Development Corp.
Firefighters prevented the blaze from spreading to other parts of the building.
Two bodies were pulled from the KFC restaurant while another man lay dead at the restaurant's entrance, witnesses said. The injured included security guards at the building and nearby banks.
In September, bombs struck KFC and McDonalds restaurants in Karachi, injuring three people in attacks suspected of being linked to a nationwide strike called by a hardline Islamic coalition opposed to Musharraf, reports the AP. I.L.