The Taliban said on Friday they had attacked a US consulate convoy in an upscale neighbourhood of Peshawar – the latest assault in a surge of violence since al Qaeda kingpin Osama bin Laden was killed in a top-secret operation by US commandos in Abbottabad on May 2.
Police said that a car bomb had been detonated by remote control as the convoy passed on Abdara Road in University Town. A passerby was killed and a dozen others wounded in the attack.
The attack – the first on American citizens in Pakistan since Bin Laden’s killing – comes a day after the interior ministry issued a statement asking foreigners to avoid unnecessary travel without prior notification.
“The attack was targeting two US consulate officials, who were on their way to the consulate in Peshawar Cantonment from the American Club in University Town,” Peshawar Police chief Liaqat Ali Khan told reporters at the site of attack. The Americans, he said, remained safe as they were travelling in a bomb-proof Land Cruiser.
He said that it was a car bombing that took place at around 8:25am, and around 12 people were injured in the attack. However, he said, there was no information about any American national suffering injuries in the attack.
US embassy spokesperson Alberto Rodriguez said two US government employees were lightly wounded in the rush-hour attack. “One vehicle was damaged. There is no death among our personnel and there are no serious injuries,” Rodriguez said, adding that two male US government employees inside the car suffered “minor injuries”.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) swiftly claimed responsibility, threatening more attacks against Western targets. “Our first enemy is Pakistan, then the US and after that, other Nato countries,” said TTP spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan. “Osama was our leader and America is the biggest terrorist,” the spokesman said.
Offices of many international organisations are located in University Town. The area, where al Qaeda was founded in 1998, was also a hub of Afghan resistance during the Soviet era.
Dismissing initial reports of a suicide bomber on a motorcycle, Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS) officials said 50 to 55 kilogrammes of explosives were used in the attack. They said that the Alto, used by the attackers, was parked in the area. But the police chief said it was not clear if the vehicle was moving or parked.
According to witnesses, the blast was so intense that the entire area rocked in its aftermath. Many houses and moving vehicles were damaged, while the bomb-proof vehicle’s exterior was damaged after it ran into an electricity pylon.
Nasir, a security guard at a nearby hospital, told The Express Tribune that following the first blast, another Land Cruiser sped to the scene and whisked away the foreigners.
The passerby killed in the attack was identified as Amjad, son of Bashir, who was on a motorbike near the attacked car. Those injured were identified as Bilal Zeb, Noorul Haq, Saifur Shah, Ihsan Tanvir, Syed Hassan Shah, Zahid, Bakht Nabi, Shahid Awan, Usman Ghani and a woman Nabila Gul.
With additional input from AFP
Published in The Express Tribune, May 21st, 2011.