12 killed as bombings target US consulate in Peshawar


Peshawar: At least 12 people were killed in a series of bomb and suicide explosions Monday afternoon in what appeared to be a planned attack on the US consulate in the high-security zone of this northwestern Pakistan city, officials said.

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Among the dead were six attackers, two security personnel, a civilian and three foreigners, whose identities were, however, not immediately known. At least 18 people were injured.

Local news channel footage showed destroyed buildings, burning vehicles and pool of blood at the site.

The blasts came hours after a powerful explosion ripped through a political rally in the Lower Dir area of the troubled North West Frontier Province (NWFP). That attack occurred in Timer Girah sub-district of Lower Dir during a political rally taken out by the province’s Awami National Party (ANP).

The blasts in Peshawar, the capital of the NWFP, took place near the US consulate situated on Khyber Road in the city’s Sadar area within a space of 20 minutes and were followed by heavy firing as the security forces moved in against the attackers.

Six heavily-armed attackers came in two cars and attacked two security check posts of the consulate with gunfire as a series of explosions rocked the cantonment area where the premises is located before they were gunned down by the security forces, Online news agency reported

Militants carrying mortars attacked a security checkpost, about twenty yards from the Consulate, in Sadar area of the city. The three explosions took place within a time span of fifteen minutes.

The first blast occurred around 1.15 p.m. near the consulate’s checkpost and the second and third at 1.31 p.m. and 1.35 p.m. as the attackers attempted to ram their explosives-laden vehicles into the building’s gates.

The blasts were so intense that mobile phone services went on the blink for some time.

Ambulances, with their sirens blaring, rushed to the area to carry the wounded to hospital.

“I saw the attackers in two vehicles. Some of them carried rocket-propelled grenades. They first opened fire at security personnel at the post near the consulate and then the blasts went off,” a Peshawar resident said.

The security forces asked journalists to keep away from the area as more blasts were feared.

The banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the blasts. Talking to BBC, Azam Tariq, a purported TTP spokesman, claimed responsibility for the attack on US Consulate but denied responsibility for Lower Dir suicide blast.

He threatened further attacks on ruling Awami National Party (ANP) and security forces for conducting operation in the tribal region.

Senior NWFP minister Bashir Bilour, whose residence is located only few metres from the targeted site, told media persons after visiting the area that militants wearing paramilitary uniforms conducted the attack.

A heavy exchange of fire took place, killing four militants and two paramilitary troopers, he added.

Peshawar Commissioner Azam Khan told media that there were three explosions, one was suicide, second was double-cabin explosive vehicle and the third was a bomb blast.

Azam Khan said that police has recovered body parts of several suicide bombers from the site and was conducting investigations.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned the blasts and vowed to continue the war against terrorism to its logical conclusion.

The US too strongly condemned the terror attack on the consulate.

According to an embassy spokesperson in Islamabad, the US “is grateful for the support of Pakistan’s security forces in Peshawar, who responded quickly to this attack on the US consulate”.

“Personnel at the US consulate in Peshawar are at the forefront of US support for the government of Pakistan’s security and development agenda in the FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) and NWFP,” an embassy statement said.

In Brussels, the European Union’s top diplomat Catherine Ashton condemned Peshawar and expressed the EU’s solidarity with Pakistan.

The attack was an attempt to undermine democracy in Pakistan, she said.

Some 600 people, mostly civilians, died in a series of blasts that rocked a vast region from the NWFP to Pakistan’s commercial capital Karachi in the last three months of 2009.

In the most horrendous of these bombings, 177 people, including a large number of women and children, were killed Oct 28, 2009, in a suicide attack at a crowded market in Peshawar.

The attacks are linked to the military operations being conducted against the Taliban in their North and South Waziristan tribal regions along the border with Afghanistan and which had begun in early October 2009.

Shaken by the Monday’s Peshawar blasts, the authorities have strengthened security at the Iranian and Afghan consulates in Balochistan capital Quetta.

Heavy police contingents have been deployed outside sensitive government installations and police patrolling has also been stepped up.

Security has been strengthening outside Governor House, the Chief Minister House, he civil secretariat and other important installations.