A suicide bomber rammed an explosive-laden car into a US consulate vehicle in an upscale neighbourhood of Peshawar, killing and injuring an unspecified number of people.
Two bullet-proof Land Cruisers of the US consulate left the American Club, located in University Town, for the consulate building during the morning rush hour, officials said.
As soon as the police escort swished past on Dora Road, the bomber rammed his white-coloured Corolla car, packed with explosives, into one of the SUVs.
The targeted vehicle, according to witnesses, was reduced to a heap of mangled metal.
There was some confusion over the death toll – two bodies were recovered from the site but several sources, including the provincial information minister insisted four people, among them two Americans, died in the attack.
The bombing victims – two dead and 18 injured – who were taken to the Khyber Teaching Hospital were local residents. The injured employees of the consulate were, however, driven to the American Club for treatment.
From the burning SUV, residents pulled out a critically injured man – identified as Winket Kipodesi, a technical administration staffer at the US consulate – who was later shifted to the American Club by US officials.
In Islamabad, the US embassy issued an initial statement quoting State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland as saying “no US consulate personnel” were killed, though two Americans and two Pakistanis working for the mission were wounded.
“We stand ready to work with Pakistani authorities on a full investigation so that the perpetrators can be brought to justice,” said Nuland.
A spokesperson later told AFP that the US embassy was “not aware” that any American citizens were killed.
Provincial Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said four people were killed in the attack, two of them Americans.
“When the bombing occurred, people sitting in the rear vehicle removed the people from the front vehicle and took them back towards the American Club within a minute,” he said.
The bombing, which took place near the office of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), damaged around a dozen houses in the vicinity.
“I saw an American national crying for help inside a burning vehicle while another consulate vehicle was also damaged,” Khandad, a police constable deployed at the UNHCR office, told The Express Tribune. “I saw two bodies lying 20 metres away from the blast site. Another dozen people were wounded.”
Another witness Muhammad Sadid said he was driving to work at his pharmacy when he heard a deafening blast on the opposite side of the road in University Town.
“It was so powerful that it jolted my car with a massive jerk. My head banged the steering wheel and the windshield. I couldn’t understand what had happened. I saw a car on fire. It became a large fireball,” he told AFP.
Akbar Khan Hoti, the inspector general of police, confirmed that it was a suicide attack and the target was the US consulate vehicle.
Police investigators found the severed head of the suspected bomber at the site. “It is very difficult to determine the bomber’s age because his face has been mutilated,” Deputy Superintendent of Police Rahim Shah told The Express Tribune.
The bomb disposal squad chief, Shafqat Malik, said that around 110 kilogrammes of explosives were used in the attack. “We have also found parts of Russian MB-12 rockets from the site,” he added.
Senior provincial minister Bashir Ahmed Bilour condemned the attack, so did US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She called it a “cowardly” attack and praised the response of the local authorities, while refusing to speculate who might be behind the attack.
(With additional input from AFP)
Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2012.
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