The Pakistani Taliban mounted a complex assault today on the US consulate in Peshawar, but were stopped short from entering the compound. Also today, the Taliban carried out a major attack farther north in the district of Dir, killing 30 people.
Four members of the suicide assault team and two Pakistani security guards were killed during the battle outside the US consulate. The clash took place in a high-security area of Peshawar.
The US embassy in Pakistan described the Taliban assault as a “coordinated attack.” The Taliban suicide assault squad was split into two teams, and is reported to have been armed with assault rifles, machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenades. One team was assigned to breach the outer wall of the consulate using a car bomb, while the second team was to enter the compound and kill those inside.
“They came in two vehicles,” Bashir Ahmed Bilour, the senior minister for the Northwest Frontier Province, told reporters. “The militants were well-equipped. It was a well-organized attack.”
The Taliban took credit for the Peshawar attack and threatened to carry out more strikes against US personnel in Pakistan with a cadre of suicide bombers held in reserve.
“We accept the attacks on the American consulate,” Azam Tariq, the spokesman for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, told AFP. “This is revenge for drone attacks,” he said, referring to the US airstrikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas that have killed dozens of senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders and more than a thousand fighters.
“We have already told you that we have 2,800 to 3,000 fedayeen (suicide bombers),” Tariq continued. “We will carry out more such attacks. We will target any place where there are Americans.”
In recent years, the Taliban have conducted numerous attacks against heavily secured military, police, and intelligence compounds, as well as against other secured targets housing foreigners in Pakistan’s major cities. The most brazen was the assault on the Pakistani Army General Headquarters complex in the garrison city of Rawalpindi in October 2009. During the fall of 2009, the Taliban also hit secured facilities in Islamabad, Peshawar, and Multan. In January 2010, a suicide bomber even targeted the Pakistani Army in the Tararrkhal region in Pakistan-held Kashmir.
The Taliban also carried out another attack in Pakistan’s northwest today. A suicide bomber is thought to have killed more than 30 people in the town of Timargarah in Lower Dir. The attack was directed at a gathering of the Awami National Party, the ruling, secular Pashtun party in the Northwest Frontier Province, which supports dialogue to resolve the Taliban problem.
Today’s attacks are the first major strikes by the Taliban outside the tribal areas since March 13, when a suicide bomber killed 14 people in an attack on a police checkpoint in the town of Saidu Sharif outside Mingora, the main town in Swat. Five days earlier, a suicide bomber killed 11 people in the eastern city of Lahore. The target of the attack was a headquarters building of the Federal Investigation Agency.
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