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French survivors head home

KARACHI, Pakistan -- Twelve Frenchmen who survived an apparent suicide bombing in Pakistan's volatile city of Karachi are returning home.

The wounded men are heading to Paris in a flying military hospital Thursday, a day after 11 French engineers and three Pakistanis died when an explosion ripped through a bus outside a hotel in the city.

At least 23 people were wounded in the blast which is being treated as a suspected suicide attack. (Full story)

The survivors were are being treated by a team of German and French doctors on board the German Airbus A310 aircraft during the eight-hour flight home. One of them remained on artificial respiration.

Meanwhile, French experts have arrived in Karachi to assist in investigating the devastating attack.

French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, who only took up her post on Tuesday, travelled to Pakistan earlier where she met some of the survivors at the Aga Khan hospital.

France's minister of defense visits 12 French nationals injured in a bomb blast Wednesday. CNN's Ash-har Quraishi reports (May 9)

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Chaos in Karachi 

Accompanied by heavy security, Alliot-Marie visited wounded French and Pakistani victims, briefly toured the bomb site, and said Pakistan and France had agreed to launch a joint probe.

She said: "This horrible terrorist act reinforces the determination of France to take a large part in fight against international terrorist organisations.

"Our doctors, specialists in forensics, are continuing their work as some of the bodies are not yet formerly identified. It could take a few days.

She was met at Karachi international airport by Pakistan Information Minister Nisar Memon and navy chief Aziz Mirza.

Memon said: "We condemn this act of terrorism. We will (catch) those who were responsible for this act.

"We arrested the killers of Daniel Pearl, an American journalist, and we will act similarly in this case."

The engineers were working on a project with the Pakistan Navy to build two submarines, and would typically come to Karachi for tours lasting one to two months.

The wife of one French man, whose lower limbs were torn off by the blast, expressed the distress of relatives waiting for news. (Shock in Cherbourg)

Alliot-Marie: Appointed on Tuesday and now in Pakistan
Alliot-Marie: Appointed on Tuesday and now in Pakistan  

"It's a nightmare, I have the feeling that I should wake up. But I think of the poor women whose husbands are no longer there. We were lucky, we were very lucky," the woman, whose first name was Geraldine, told France Info radio.

French President Jacques Chirac condemned the attack as "odious."

He urged Pakistan to take necessary measures to protect the French community and to "put everything in place to find and punish the authors of this terrorist attack."

He said: "French citizens performing their cooperation work in Karachi in Pakistan were victims of a murderous, cowardly, odious terrorist attack."

The bomb attack was the third time foreign nationals in Pakistan have been targeted this year, after the kidnap and murder of Pearl in January and a grenade attack on a church in Islamabad in March.

Alliot-Marie is expected to accompany the wounded French workers home. The 11 bodies of the French engineers, who were building a submarine for Pakistan, will also be repatriated.

The victims were part of a team of 40 working for the department of naval construction (DCN), attached to the Defence Ministry, and providing technical assistance on the construction of Pakistani navy submarines.

Eight were from the northern port of Cherbourg, where a counselling service has been set up for relatives, a spokeswoman at DCN headquarters told Reuters.

Two were from the coastal region of Finistere and one from Charente.

DCN Director Laurent Barthelemy said more than 20 of the department's team were on the bus at the time of the attack.

One survivor, Christophe Polidor, 36, from Cherbourg, whose right foot and pelvis bone were smashed in the Karachi blast, told Reuters: "I was sitting three rows behind the driver, but I am unable to remember anything.

"I woke up in the ambulance and didn't understand why I was there. This is the worst action people can do against others."


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