US diplomat dodges assassination attempt in Peshawar

The security situation in Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan’s turbulent Northwest Frontier Province, continues to deteriorate as the Taliban conduct several high-profile strikes in the city. The chief US diplomat in Peshawar evaded an assassination attempt today as the Taliban bombed a school and police station in the city.

The assassination attempt occurred on the streets of Peshawar as Lynne Tracy, the US Consulate’s principal officer, was driving from her home to the consulate. “Unknown gunmen” used a Land Cruiser to block the street, forcing Tracy’s vehicle to stop. The gunmen opened fire on the car as the driver slammed it into reverse and escaped the scene of the attack. The vehicle was bulletproof; neither Tracy nor her driver was wounded.

The attack required some planning and scouting of Tracy’s movements throughout the city. The ambush was said to have been carried out close to her home, limiting the number of alternate routes that could have been taken to get to the consulate. The Taliban are known to favor Land Cruisers as their vehicles of choice.

This is not the first attack on diplomatic personnel inside Pakistan. The Taliban and al Qaeda successfully ambushed and killed a member of the US Consulate in Karachi in a street ambush in March 2006. A car bomb rammed into a diplomat’s vehicle just outside the Karachi Consulate, killing the diplomat and three others. The blast was so large it damaged the consulate and nearby buildings.

This year, a suicide car bomber attacked the Danish Embassy in the secure zone in Islamabad. The attack killed eight Pakistanis and wounded 30. The blast damaged the wall of the Danish embassy as well as the offices of the United Nations Development Program.

Security deteriorates in Peshawar

Today’s assassination attempt follows two Taliban attacks in Peshawar. A police station in Peshawar was bombed while two social welfare officers were kidnapped. The Taliban also destroyed a girls’ high school in the city.

Suicide bombers have also restarted attacks in the provincial capital. On Aug. 12, the Taliban took credit for a deadly bus bombing on a Pakistani Air Force bus in Peshawar. Thirteen Pakistanis, including 10 security officials, were killed and more than a dozen were wounded.

The security situation in Peshawar has long been in decline. Earlier this year, government officials openly stated that the city is under threat of a Taliban takeover. The Interior Secretary for the Northwest Frontier Province said the Taliban are moving on Peshawar. Peshawar’s police chief said the Taliban will soon be in control of the entire district if steps are not taken to halt the advance.

Peshawar’s business leaders have complained of a creeping Taliban presence. An estimated 90 percent of the materials used to supply Peshawar’s industry have not been shipped due to the security situation, and investors are “worried about the prevailing situation,” according to a report in the Daily Times. “Businessmen have warned of shifting their enterprises to other provinces if the government did not take steps to control the law and order situation,” the paper reported.

Government leaders have said they will not allow a Taliban takeover of Peshawar, which serves as the headquarters of Pakistan’s 11th Corps. Peshawar is also a waypoint for NATO supplies into Afghanistan. But the government also said it would press forward with negotiations in the region despite the Taliban advance in the tribal areas and the settled districts of the Northwest Frontier Province.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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