Friday, May 20, 2011

Taliban car bomb targets US convoy in Peshawar

Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan said on Friday it had attacked a US consulate convoy in Peshawar, the latest in a surge of violence since US forces killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden earlier this month.

US embassy spokesman Alberto Rodriguez said no Americans were killed or seriously wounded in the car bomb attack, which killed one Pakistani and wounded 10 people.

The attack took place on a main road in an area where many Western diplomats live and involved 50 kg of explosives, police said. “There was an attack on a two-car convoy from the consulate in Peshawar. One car was hit. We are still investigating what actually happened,” said Rodriguez.

Peshawar has seen many attacks by Taliban militants seeking to topple the US-backed Pakistani government and was home to bin Laden in the 1980s when extremists were fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

Al Qaeda and its ally, the Pakistani Taliban, have vowed to avenge the killing of bin Laden by US Special Forces on May 2, and, the group said it would target the Pakistani government and its Western allies.

“The diplomatic staff of all Nato countries are our targets,” said Ehsanullah Ehsan, a Taliban spokesman, told Reuters via telephone from an undisclosed location.

“We will continue such attacks. Pakistan is our first target, and America is our second.”

Peshawar police chief Liaqat Ali told reporters the booby-trapped car appeared to have been parked at the side of the road and exploded as one consulate vehicle was near, forcing it to slam into an electricity pole.

Police superintendent Ijaz Khan told Reuters two American security guards were slightly wounded, and were being treated at a US medical facility.

Pakistan has witnessed a jump in violence since bin Laden’s death, including a twin suicide bombing last week that killed more than 80 people, most of them paramilitary recruits.

The Taliban have kept up pressure on the government with suicide attacks despite several army offensives on their strongholds in the northwest.

The United States wants nuclear-armed Pakistan to be a more reliable partner in its war on militancy launched after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Close cooperation between the two allies is needed to stabilise neighbouring Afghanistan. Ties have been severely damaged since the secret raid that killed bin Laden.

Pakistan is under pressure to explain how bin Laden spent what appeared to be about five years in a military town not far from the capital.

Pakistan’s powerful army was infuriated by the operation, describing it as a violation of the South Asian country’s sovereignty.