America under attack in Pakistan

Militants launch assault on US consulate after suicide bomb kills 45 at political rally

Suicide bombers and militant gunmen made a concerted attack on a US diplomatic mission in the Pakistani city of Peshawar yesterday, killing at least three guards and setting off a string of explosions in an incident that underscored the continued strength of Taliban forces in the region.

The assault came shortly after a suicide blast in the town of Timergara, about 50 miles from Peshawar, killed 45 people at a political rally. No Americans were hurt in the attack on the heavily-defended US consulate, but Pakistani guards were involved in a gun battle with militants wielding mortars and grenades as well as automatic weapons, killing four of them as they successfully held off the onslaught.

As the gun battle raged, a series of four bomb blasts went off in quick succession, sending huge clouds of dust and debris into the air. According to Bashir Ahmad Bilour, the provincial senior minister, suicide belts were found on the bodies of the attackers. "They were well equipped," he told reporters outside the building later. "They had a lot of explosives."

Last night, the US embassy in Islamabad confirmed the consulate had been the target of the attack and condemned the incident. The suicide bomb in Timergara, which is in the Lower Dir district, killed attendees at an event to mark the renaming of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP).

"I think the militants may be trying to send two messages," said Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi, a Pakistani military analyst. "The first is that the Taliban still has the capacity to launch attacks on big targets despite losing control of South Waziristan. The second may be a kind of reaction to the increased US operations in Afghanistan. This comes after the US and Pakistan strategic dialogue in which they agreed to greater co-operation against the Taliban."

The city of Peshawar has been the scene of countless suicide bomb attacks over the last 18 months. Many foreign aid organisations have cut back on their operations due to ongoing insecurity and the US consulate was one of just a handful of diplomatic missions still based in the city. In the summer of 2008, the US consul general in Peshawar, Lynne Tracy, survived an attack by gunmen on her bulletproof car in the city.

In yesterday's incident, it appears a group of well-armed militants engaged Pakistani guards at the consulate before detonating a number of bombs in what officials called "a well-planned assault". A spokesman for the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which came just days after militants had told Pakistani journalists they were planning significant strikes.

Witnesses said the attackers had arrived near the Shama Square crossroads in the military cantonment area of Peshawar in two vehicles and that some of them were armed with rocket-propelled grenades. Ghulam Hussain, a local police officer, later told Agence France-Presse: "The target was the American consulate but didn't succeed in getting there. One of the suicide bombers blew himself up close to the gate. Police guarding the US consulate started retaliatory fire. More blasts took place. We have recovered unexploded material from four points."

Earlier in the day, a suicide bomber struck at a meeting of the Awami National Party (ANP), which was called to celebrate new legislation to rename the NWFP as Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The secular party, strongly opposed to the Taliban, called for the name change to better represent the province's largely Pashtun population.

Washington has provided Pakistan with billions of dollars in military aid to fight militants and is also funding a number of development projects in north-west Pakistan designed to undermine support for the Taliban. Many of these projects were overseen by officials in the consulate in Peshawar.

Since Barack Obama came to office last year, the US has increased the number of drone strikes on suspected militant targets in the region. A number of Taliban and al-Qa'ida leaders have been killed by the strikes, which are deeply unpopular with locals because of the number of innocent people killed.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower