|Published:||Apr 05, 2010 4:06 PM EDT|
|Updated:||Apr 05, 2010 4:06 PM EDT|
PESHAWAR, Pakistan - Islamist militants attacked a U.S.
consulate in northwest Pakistan with car bombs and grenades Monday,
killing three people, hours after 41 people died in a suicide
attack on a political rally elsewhere in the region.
The assaults illustrated the resilience of militants in the
country despite intense army operations and U.S. missile strikes in
their northwestern havens near Afghanistan.
After the car bombs exploded at a checkpoint outside the
consulate in Peshawar, militants dressed in security uniforms fired
mortars or rocket-propelled grenades at the heavily fortified
compound in an attempt to make their way inside, said a Pakistani
intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity because
he was not authorized to talk to the media.
"I think they could not manage to get inside," provincial
Senior Minister Bashir Ahmad Bilour told reporters outside the
The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad said the militants attempted to
enter the building and fired grenades and other weapons. It said no
Americans were killed in the assault, but did not say whether the
building itself was damaged.
Al-Qaida and Taliban militants have long vowed to attack the
United States, which has fired scores of missiles at them in their
northwestern strongholds over the last year and a half. Washington
has also given billions of dollars in aid to the Pakistani army,
which is also attacking the Muslim extremists.
The last attack against a U.S. mission was in Karachi in 2006
when a militant rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into the car of
an American diplomat near the consulate, killing him and three
The three people killed in Monday's attack included a
paramilitary soldier, a private security guard and a civilian, said
police official Sattar Khan. Four militants were also killed during
the attack and three other people were wounded, he said.
"They were well equipped," said Bilour. "They had a lot of
Police discovered suicide jackets after the militants were
killed and defused them, said Bilour.
Two of the blasts took place around 20 yards (meters) from the
main entrance to the consulate, an Associated Press reporter close
to the scene said.
Local TV footage from Peshawar showed soldiers taking up
defensive positions on the road outside the consulate. One soldier
hit the ground in the middle of the road and began firing as a
large explosion sent up a plume of gray smoke nearby. Rescue
workers carried at least one wounded man away on a stretcher, his
clothing soaked with blood.
The U.S. is only one of three countries to have a diplomatic
presence in Peshawar, which has seen repeated militant attacks over
the last 18 months. As well as attacking militants and hunting
al-Qaida in the northwest, Washington is also funding many
development projects in the region aimed at cutting support for the
It is unclear how many diplomats work at the building.
The top U.S. diplomat at the consulate survived a gun attack on
her armored vehicle in Peshawar in August 2008. Three months later,
gunmen shot and killed an American in the city as he was traveling
to work for a U.S.-funded aid program aimed at chipping away
support for militants in Pakistan's lawless tribal regions.
Given the threat level in the country, family members of
American officials assigned to the embassy in Islamabad and to the
country's three consulates were ordered to leave the country in
March 2002 and have not been allowed to return.
Shortly before Monday's attack, a suicide bomber struck a rally
held by a Pashtun nationalist party in Lower Dir to celebrate the
government-supported proposal to change the name of North West
Frontier Province to Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa, said local police chief
Mumtaz Zarin Khan.
"A police official spotted the bomber a second before he
exploded," said Khan. "The official shot at him, but by that
time, he had done his job."
A total of 41 people at the rally in the town of Timergarah were
killed and 80 wounded, he said.
Local TV footage showed people in tears running and carrying
wounded in desperate search for help from rescue workers.
"Such acts only reflect the barbarian approach of the
militants," said an Awami National Party lawmaker from the
district, Malik Azmat. "They are not humans."
Lower Dir lies next to the Swat Valley, which was the target of
a major military offensive last year that succeeded in driving out
the militants. Other major operations in the Afghan border region
followed, and have gone some way in reassuring the world that
Pakistan is not falling to the extremists.
The frequency of militant attacks in Pakistan over the last
three months has dropped compared to the final quarter of last
year, but experts have cautioned it is far too early to say this
means the insurgents are in retreat.