Peshawar // US and Pakistani teams were trying to piece together yesterday how the Taliban launched a gun, grenade and double suicide car bomb attack on the heavily guarded US Consulate in Peshawar. In the sophisticated attack on Monday, six militants armed with suicide vests, guns and grenades drove into one of the most defended parts of the city in Pakistan's North West Frontier province and exploded two suicide car bombs outside the American mission.
Five Pakistanis were killed, including at least two guards who worked for the consulate and the outer barrier was damaged, but the attackers failed to storm the compound. Pakistan's Taliban claimed responsibility, saying the attack was to avenge US drones targeting top militants in Pakistan's border areas with Afghanistan, and threatened further assaults on American targets. The attack underscored the potency of their threat despite Pakistan stepping up military offensives and a significant increase in US drone strikes targeting Taliban and al Qa'eda-linked commanders in the nearby tribal belt.
Pakistani security officials said that the assailants planned the attack methodically, using local scouts and safe houses, smuggling explosives into a dumping ground near the consulate and then assembling the car bombs locally. Intelligence agents suspect the bombers infiltrated Peshawar either west from the nearby Khyber tribal district, an approximately 30-minute drive from the US Embassy, or north-west from the neighbouring tribal district of Mohmand.
"It was a well-planned attack. The militants collected their material dumped somewhere near their target area before launching the attack on the US consulate," said Malik Naveed, the North West Frontier Province police chief. A senior Pakistani police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that US security officers were in Peshawar and also investigating, but there was no comment from the US Embassy in Islamabad.
"We have traced the engine number and model of the cars used in the blasts and we have collected evidence and sent it to the relevant laboratories," said Shafqat Malik, the Peshawar bomb disposal chief. But Pakistan's embattled security forces, which last year fought bloody offensives to push out the Taliban from Swat and the South Waziristan tribal district, said they managed to thwart the attackers.
"We did not let them enter the consulate building and that was the biggest achievement of the security forces," Mr Naveed said. * Agence France-Presse