PESHAWAR: Two Americans working for the US consulate were wounded in a bomb attack on their vehicle in the Pakistani city of Peshawar on Monday, the American embassy said.
The blast also wounded two Pakistani employees of the consulate, the embassy in Islamabad said in a statement.
Earlier, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain had told reporters that at least four people, including two Americans, were killed in an attack by a suicide bomber in a vehicle.
“The blast killed two Americans. This is a dangerous move from the terrorists – they want to terrorise the foreigners,” Hussain told AFP, adding that two Americans were also wounded in the blast. “The dead and injured are from the US consulate. It was a suicide attack. The suicide bomber targeted US vehicle,” he had said.
“We can confirm that a vehicle belonging to the US consulate in Peshawar was hit in an apparent terrorist attack,” the US embassy said in its statement.
“Two US personnel and two Pakistani staff of the Consulate were injured and are receiving medical treatment,” the statement added.
An intelligence official confirmed the US consulate car was the target, with another saying the suicide bomber ploughed his vehicle into it.
Police have recovered a half-burnt US passport from a car badly damaged in the explosion, intelligence officials said.
Peshawar police chief Imtiaz Altaf said the car bomb was loaded with up to 110 kilograms (240 pounds) of explosives, including more than 10 mortar rounds. There were 19 wounded in the attack, he said.
The blast took place near residential quarters for the US consulate and foreign aid organisations, senior police officer Tahir Ayub told AFP, adding that three people were injured.
A senior security official confirmed two deaths, while witnesses said two vehicles were damaged in the explosion.
Umar Riaz, a senior police officer, said initial reports suggested the blast was a car bomb, with the vehicle parked around 25 metres from the office of the UNHCR.
The explosion left a crater in the road and destroyed a Jeep, damaging two others and demolishing the facing walls of four nearby houses, an AFP reporter said.
“We are not sure about the nature of the explosives at the moment or whether it was a remote control bomb or not,” Riaz said.
The injured were shifted to Khyber Teaching Hospital.
Police immediately cordoned off the area, while a rescue operation was launched in the area.
Peshawar is the main city in northwest Pakistan and the gateway to the lawless tribal regions along the Afghan border, where Taliban and al Qaeda militants have strongholds.
According to a report published in The Express Tribune on September 2, the Asmatullah Moavia faction had been tasked with targeting military and security check posts at University Road, Peshawar.
The contents of a circular issued to law enforcement agencies by the interior ministry’s National Crisis Management Cell (NCMC) had revealed that banned outfits were planning attacks on sensitive installments across the country.
Clinton condemns ‘cowardly’ attack
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday denounced the “cowardly” attack against US consulate personnel in Pakistan and praised local authorities’ response to the scene.
Clinton, on a visit to Jakarta shortly after the bombing in Peshawar, said that she wanted to “very clearly condemn the attack on our consulate personnel”.
“We deplore the cowardly act of suicide bombing and terrorist attacks that have affected so many people around the world and which we must all stand against,” she told reporters.
Clinton declined to speculate on the perpetrators but was quick to praise the response of authorities in Pakistan, whose strategic partnership with the United States has repeatedly been plunged into crisis in recent years.
“The information I have is that the Pakistani authorities responded very appropriately,” she said.
Clinton, in line with earlier US accounts, said that both US citizens and Pakistanis employed at the consulate were injured when a suicide bomber rammed into their van.
She said that some of the injured had been airlifted to hospitals in the Pakistani capital Islamabad.