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
Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Sport
Raheem Sterling of Liverpool celebrates scoring the opening goal
footballLIVE: Follow all the latest from tonight's Capital One quarter-finals
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Voices
Jimmy Mubenga died after being restrained on an aircraft by G4S escorts
voicesJonathan Cox: Tragedy of Jimmy Mubenga highlights lack of dignity shown to migrants
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser
'Enhanced interrogation techniques?' When language is distorted to hide state crimes

Robert Fisk on the CIA 'torture report'

Once again language is distorted in order to hide US state wrongdoing
Radio 1’s new chart host must placate the Swifties and Azaleans

Radio 1 to mediate between the Swifties and Azaleans

New chart host Clara Amfo must placate pop's fan armies
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

The head of Veterans Aid on how his charity is changing perceptions of ex-servicemen and women in need
Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

Its use is always wrong and, despite CIA justifications post 9/11, the information obtained from it is invariably tainted, argues Patrick Cockburn
Rebranding Christmas: More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence

Rebranding Christmas

More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence. They are missing the point, and we all need to grow up
A Greek island - yours for the price of a London flat

A sun-kissed island - yours for the price of a London flat

Cash-strapped Greeks are selling off their slices of paradise
Pogues could enjoy fairytale Christmas No 1 thanks to digital streaming

Pogues could enjoy fairytale Christmas No 1 thanks to digital streaming

New system means that evergreen songs could top the festive charts
Prince of Wales: Gruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence

Prince of Wales: Gruff Rhys

He is a musician of wondrous oddity. He is on a perpetual quest to seek the lost tribes of the Welsh diaspora. Just don't ask Gruff Rhys if he's a national treasure...