US consulate in Peshawar attacked by Pakistan Taliban
A coordinated attack Monday on the US Consulate in Peshawar left at least six dead, including four Pakistani Taliban militants. No Americans were killed in the attack.
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Six people including four Pakistani Taliban militants were killed, said Bashir Ahmed Bilour, senior minister in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). No Americans at the US Consulate were hurt, according to Reuters.
Resident Siraj Afridi said that a group of attackers carrying rocket-propelled grenades opened fire at security personnel before the blasts went off. The three blasts were reported to have occurred within a 20-minute period.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. “We accept the attacks on the American consulate. This is revenge for drone attacks,” spokesman Azam Tariq told Agence France-Presse.
“We will carry out more such attacks. We will target any place where there are Americans,” he added.
Uptick in US drone attacks
US drone attacks have intensified in the North Waziristan tribal agency since December, killing more than 100 militants so far this year and hampering their ability to roam freely.
The Pakistan Army is also in the midst of a major operation to clear out militants from the Orakzai tribal agency that borders Peshawar.
Pakistani television channels showed a mushroom cloud rising into the sky while military helicopters circled over the US Consulate building in the aftermath.
The US Embassy in Islamabad issued a statement confirming the attack: "The coordinated attack involved a vehicle suicide bomb and terrorists attempting to enter the building using grenades and weapons fire." It said that at least two of its Pakistani guards were killed and several wounded.
Ex-security chief blames lack of checkpoints
Retired Brig. Mehmood Shah, an ex-security chief for Pakistan’s tribal areas, told the Monitor by phone from Peshawar that a lack of checkpoints on the University Road which leads to the consulate may have given the militants a clear run and that security forces may have been caught “relaxing” after a two- month lull in attacks in the provincial capital of the North West Frontier Province.
“They appear to have been planned attacks which would require a week or two of reconnaissance,” he said. Despite this, he says, footage recorded by the media of the security agencies’ response to the attacks showed they “responded well.”
Among other things, the US consulate in Peshawar coordinates the disbursement of aid into the province. In August 2008, the consulate’s chief officer’s car was ambushed though she escaped injury.
Another attack 50 miles away
Earlier on Monday, a suspected suicide attack at a political rally in the town of Timegara, also in the NWFP, killed more than 30 people. The rally, about 50 miles north of Peshawar, had been organized by the province’s ruling Awami National Party to celebrate the expected renaming of the province to Khyber-Pakhtoonkwa.
Under constitutional amendments likely to be passed in parliament this week, the province will be renamed to represent its dominant Pashtun population.
In February, three US soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb at a girls’ school in northwest Pakistan. The soliders had been part of program aimed at training Pakistani paramilitary forces.