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Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Bomber Hits US Consulate Vehicle In Peshawar Killing Two People


PESHAWAR: Two persons were killed and 22 others, including two US personnel and four policemen, were injured when a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden car into an armoured-plated vehicle of the US Consulate General close to an UNHCR office in the University Town here on Monday.

Earlier, there were reports that apart from two locals, two US nationals were also killed in the blast, but the US Embassy in Islamabad later issued a denial. KP Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain had said two American diplomats had also been killed in the blast.

“We were piloting the vehicle of the US Consulate General while on way from the consulate to the American Club when it was targeted by the bomber,” a police official travelling in a vehicle escorting the

diplomatic car told reporters.

The blast was so powerful that the armoured-plated vehicle of the diplomats was destroyed after it caught fire. Only the engine of the car of the suicide bomber could be found from the spot while rest of the parts of the two vehicles were blown into smithereens.

A few other vehicles as well as nearby houses and offices were damaged in the powerful explosion. Windowpanes of several other buildings in the vicinity, including those of the international organisations, were smashed. Some of the international organisations shut their offices after the bombing for security reasons.

A spokesman for the capital city police, Jalaluddin Khan, said two persons were killed and 21 others, including four policemen, were wounded in the bomb attack that targeted the foreigners’ car at 9:15am.

The spokesman said the bomb disposal unit estimated that 110 kg of high-quality explosives were used in the attack. One of those killed was identified as a junior official of a local government office, Barkat Ali. The second body could not be identified.

Among the injured were an Assistant Sub-Inspector Pervez Khan and three police constables Farooq Khan, Farhan and Ikram, two women inside a nearby house, two schoolchildren and some passers-by.

A half-burnt copy of passport of an American national Capodicci Jr Vincent, of Connecticut, United States, was also recovered from the destroyed diplomatic car. The injured American diplomats were first shifted to the American Club located in the posh University Town locality. Top government officials, including ministers and senior police officers, went to the site of the attack amid rain to examine the crime scene.

“After having a look at the destroyed armoured car, you can imagine how powerful the blast was. The vehicle of the bomber was blown into pieces,” KP Information Minister Mian Iftikhar told newsmen at the bombing site. He was flanked by Inspector General of Police Akbar Hoti. Passers-by said the survival of anyone on board the targeted vehicle would be a miracle as the vehicle was destroyed in the blast and following the fire that engulfed it.

“We can confirm that a vehicle belonging to the US Consulate in Peshawar was hit in an apparent terrorist attack. Two US personnel and as many Pakistani staff of the consulate were injured and are receiving medical treatment,” said Toria Nuland, spokesperson for the US State Department.

The statement, forwarded by the US Embassy in Islamabad, insisted that no US Consulate General personnel were killed. It added: “We are seeking further information about other victims of this heinous act. We stand ready to work with Pakistani authorities on a full investigation so that the perpetrators can be brought to justice.”

Later, the Charge d’affaires of the US Embassy, Ambassador Richard Hoagland, issued a statement, saying: “I am grateful for the humane professionalism of the local Pakistani security forces who saved the lives of the two American diplomats and two Pakistani local staff of the US Consulate General in Peshawar by pulling them to safety after their vehicle was attacked”.

He added: “In this dangerous world where terrorists can strike at any moment, we must all work together — Pakistanis and Americans alike — because we have a strong mutual interest in defeating terrorism”.

The blast created a wide and deep crater on the road while it damaged several offices of international organisations located in the vicinity.

A local Urdu daily had published news on Sunday that militants had hurled fresh threats at the US Consulate General sited on the barricaded Hospital Road in Peshawar Cantonment. Subsequently, the security of the US diplomatic mission, already the most well protected place in Peshawar, was beefed up and measures put in place to upgrade security for the staff members.

Since 2008, US diplomats have come under frequent attacks in Peshawar. The biggest attack was by a group of suicide bombers last year on the US Consulate General but the attack was foiled. On another occasion, UN Consul General Lynn Tracy survived an attack by suspected militants on her armoured-plated car. She was later transferred out of Peshawar.

Also, two US diplomats were among the 10 persons injured in a bomb attack on the armoured-plated car in Peshawar’s University Town last year, while a US official Stephen Devance was shot dead in the University Town a few years ago.

Three US security personnel working with the Frontier Corps were killed in a suicide bombing in Lower Dir district earlier. Their killing exposed the presence of US soldiers in Pakistan in the conflict area as the government until then had been claiming that there were no American security personnel operating in the country.

Other foreign nationals too have been attacked in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the adjoining tribal areas. Three Chinese nationals were slaughtered in Daudzai area and a Chinese woman was killed in Kohati locality in Peshawar. Two Chinese engineers were kidnapped and one was killed in the army’s rescue mission in South Waziristan. Two other Chinese engineers were kidnapped in Swat; one managed to escape from militants’ custody and the other was freed following a deal.

Also, an official of the Iranian Consulate Abul Hassan Jafari was killed while its third secretary Hashmatollah Attarzadeh was kidnapped and later freed under a deal.

The Afghan envoy-designate to Islamabad Abdul Khaliq Farahi was another foreigner kidnapped from Peshawar in recent years and released after a deal under which several Afghan Taliban were freed and a huge ransom was paid.

Agencies add: President Asif Ali Zardari on Monday strongly condemned the bomb blast in Peshawar. In a message, he said the perpetrators of such a heinous crime would not be spared. He expressed sorrow over the loss of lives and prayed for the departed souls to rest in peace. He directed the best possible treatment for the injured persons.

Separately, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced the ‘cowardly’ attack against the US consulate personnel in Peshawar and praised the local authorities’ response to the scene.

Clinton, on a visit to Jakarta shortly after the bombing in Peshawar, said she wanted to very clearly condemn the attack on 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 some of injured persons had been airlifted to hospitals in Islamabad.

Meanwhile, ANP chief Asfandyar Wali Khan and ANP KP chapter president Senator Afrasaib Khan Khattak, in a joint statement, condemned the terrorist attack on the US Consulate vehicle.

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Edited By Cen Fox Post Team

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