CORRECTS DATE - Pakistani investigators examine a damaged van at the site of a suicide attack in Karachi, Pakistan, Friday, April 19, 2024.  (AP Photo/Fareed Khan) ASSOCIATED PRESS

CORRECTS DATE - Pakistani investigators examine a damaged van at the site of a suicide attack in Karachi, Pakistan, Friday, April 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan) ASSOCIATED PRESS

AP:  A suicide bomber detonated his explosive-laden vest near a van carrying Japanese autoworkers, who narrowly escaped the attack Friday that wounded three bystanders in Pakistan's port city of Karachi, police said.

The van had been heading to an industrial area where the five Japanese nationals worked at Pakistan Suzuki Motors, local police chief Arshad Awan said. He said police escorting the Japanese returned fire after coming under attack, killing an accomplice of the suicide bomber whose remains were found from the scene of the attack.

“All the Japanese who were the target of the attack are safe,” he said.

Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif denounced the attack on the Japanese nationals. In separate statements, they praised police for quickly responding and foiling the attack. They also vowed to eliminate terrorism and prayed for the speedy recovery of those wounded in the attack.

Images on local news channels showed a damaged van, as police officers arrived at the scene of the attack. Awan said the three passersby who were wounded in the attack were in stable condition at a hospital.

Police were escorting the van after receiving reports about possible attacks on foreigners who are working in Pakistan on various Chinese-funded and other projects, said Tariq Mastoi, a senior police officer. He said a timely and quick response from the guards and police foiled the attack and both attackers were killed.

No one immediately claimed responsibility, but suspicion is likely to fall on a small separatist group or the Pakistani Taliban who have stepped up attacks on security forces in recent years. Insurgents have also targeted Chinese who are working in Pakistan on projects relating to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which includes a multitude of megaprojects such as road construction, power plants and agriculture.

In March, five Chinese and their Pakistani driver were killed when a suicide bomber in northwest Pakistan rammed his explosive-laden car into a vehicle when they were heading to the Dasu Dam, the biggest hydropower project in Pakistan, where they worked.

However, Japanese working in Pakistan have not been the target of any such attacks.

Karachi is the largest city in Pakistan and the capital of southern Sindh province.

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