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Page last updated at 17:06 GMT, Monday, 5 April 2010 18:06 UK

Attack on US consulate in Peshawar, Pakistan

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Pakistani television filmed two of the blasts

At least seven people have died after militants attacked the US consulate in the north-western Pakistani city of Peshawar.

There were several explosions in the area near the consulate and buildings collapsed. A gun battle between police and the attackers followed.

Pakistan's main Taliban faction said it had carried out the raid.

The raid came hours after 43 people died in a suicide attack about 80 km (50 miles) north-east of Peshawar.

The bomber targeted a crowded rally held by a Pashtun nationalist party in Timergara, Lower Dir.

'Great concern'

Investigators suspect it was co-ordinated with the Peshawar attack, in which police told the BBC four militants and three security personnel died.

Americans are our enemies - we plan more attacks
Azam Tariq
Taliban spokesman

There were no reported US casualties and it is not clear if the US consulate building suffered any damage.

The White House condemned the attack and expressed "great concern".

The militants struck close to Shama Square, a major crossroads at the northern end of Peshawar's cantonment area, near the US consulate.

There are also some army barracks and offices of the army's military intelligence close by.

Vehicles ablaze

An Associated Press reporter at the scene said two of the explosions were just 20m from the consulate, which is in a heavily fortified area.

Pakistani police officer Ghulam Hussain told AFP news agency: "One of the suicide bombers blew himself up close to the gate. Police guarding the US consulate started retaliatory fire.

"More blasts took place. We have recovered unexploded material from four different points."

Taliban spokesman Azam Tariq said his group had carried out the raid.

"Americans are our enemies. We carried out the attack on their consulate in Peshawar. We plan more such attacks," he told Reuters news agency.

ANALYSIS
Ilyas Khan
M Ilyas Khan, BBC News, Islamabad

Monday's attack in Peshawar appears to be similar to recent gun-and-bomb raids in Lahore and Rawalpindi.

These have been co-ordinated assaults, with several gunmen moving in alongside suicide bombers to force their way into a facility - this time the "prized" US consulate.

The Pakistani Taliban were apparently aiming for a feat to match the one last December in Khost, Afghanistan, in which several American CIA officials were killed.

Another reason could be to try to ease military pressure on militants in Orakzai tribal district, where the Pakistani security forces launched a major operation last week.

America's presence in Afghanistan and US drone strikes on militant targets in Pakistan's tribal areas make the US a top target for the Taliban.

TV footage showed army soldiers taking battle positions on the main Khyber Road where the blasts took place.

Witnesses told BBC Urdu a couple of armoured vehicles parked outside the consulate caught fire.

"I saw attackers in two vehicles. Some of them carried rocket-propelled grenades," said Peshawar resident Siraj Afridi.

The BBC's Shoaib Hasan in Islamabad says this is the first attack against a US facility in Pakistan in four years.

In 2006, a US diplomat was killed by a suicide car bomber near the US consulate in Karachi, days before a visit to Pakistan by then US President George W Bush.

As well as endless political bickering, nuclear-armed Pakistan is plagued by an Islamist insurgency that has killed many hundreds of people in recent years.

In a move which could help ease decision-making, President Asif Ali Zardari urged MPs on Monday to back reforms that will see him relinquish his sweeping powers.

Zardari applauded

Constitutional amendments, long demanded by the opposition, are expected to pass this week, making him more of a titular head of state, while empowering the prime minister and parliament.

ATTACKS ON US TARGETS
Feb 2010: Three US military trainers die in bomb near Lower Dir school
Aug 2008: Top US diplomat evades Peshawar gun attack
Mar 2006: Suicide bomb kills US diplomat near same consulate
Feb 2003: Gunmen kill two policemen outside same consulate
June 2002: 12 Pakistanis die in bomb at Karachi US consulate

In an annual address to MPs, Mr Zardari was cheered as he vowed to defeat the insurgents.

"We are prepared to risk our lives, but we are not prepared to surrender this great nation to the militants," he said.

Peshawar, which is on the edge of Pakistan's tribal areas, has been frequently targeted by Islamist militants.

Analysts said Monday's attacks appeared to be in response to a major security operation launched last week in the Orakzai tribal region near Peshawar.

Map of Peshawar


We asked for your reaction to this story. Please find a selection of your comments below.

The Khyber Road was closed for public transport two hours before the explosion took place as I was coming back to home from Peshawar University, so it seems that Pakistan intelligence knew about the attack.

Hamid, Peshawar

I am visiting Peshawar on business and was about 1km away from the blast. The chaos and destruction here was indescribable. The only thoughts in most educated people's minds are: 'Why does the world not recognise that all these Taliban type attacks are fuelled by Saudi-type Wahabbi line of thinking?'. Until the West recognises Saudi Arabia and its radical type of Islam as the source of 'Islamic terrorism', the world will never be at peace.

Arif-ul Haque, Islamabad

The US Consulate has been stationed in Peshawar for the last 30 Years, but common Peshawar people still had to travel 180km to Islamabad to get a Visa. The world should understand that we the Pashtun of Peshawar and NWFP province are fighting against terror and cleaning up the supposed enemies of America which the USA created to fight the Russians in 1979. We are victims of double prejudice as we are considered as friends of the same terrorists who are killing us, although the local population have taken arms against the Taliban in NWFP and FATA to fight them voluntarily. This prejudice was the reason this consulate was closed to offering us local Pashtun people visas and travel rights to the USA.

Khurrum, Peshawar

The US has to decrease its presence in Pakistan which is causing civilian lives to be lost. The consulates should be moved outside the city because they have blocked the main entrance to the city, forcing people to have to take the long route.

Zubair Afridi, Peshawar

I wish all these coward fanatics could be eliminated in one go. Peshawar is a beautiful place with a proud and welcoming people - unfortunately destroyed by these idiots who have nothing to do with the religion of Islam. These people are brain-washed for political and personal gains.

Ayaz Khan, Peshawar, Pakistan



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