Pakistan Taliban says attacked U.S. consulate convoy

PESHAWAR, Pakistan Fri May 20, 2011 10:31am EDT

1 of 5. A damaged U.S. consulate vehicle is seen after it was struck by a bomb blast in Peshawar May 20, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Fayaz Aziz

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PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistan's Taliban said on Friday it had attacked a U.S. consulate convoy in the volatile northwestern city of Peshawar, the latest assault in a surge of violence since U.S. forces killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden this month.

Police said a car bomb had been detonated by remote control as the convoy passed, killing one Pakistani. Twelve people were wounded.

U.S. embassy spokesman Alberto Rodriguez said two U.S. nationals were among the wounded, with minor injuries. Police said the two were security guards.

The attack on the two-vehicle convoy took place on a main road in an area where many Western diplomats live and involved 50 kg (110 pounds) 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 police chief Liaqat Ali said the blast had been caused by a car bomb detonated remotely.

"It was not a suicide bombing," he told Reuters.

It was the first attack on Westerners since bin Laden's death on May 2.

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

TALIBAN TARGETS NATO DIPLOMATS

Al Qaeda and its ally, the Pakistani Taliban, have vowed to avenge the killing of bin Laden by U.S. special forces 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."

Many Pakistanis are frustrated with the inability of security forces to subdue the Taliban. In a separate attack on Friday, an explosion killed five people and wounded four in the tribal region of Orakzai in the northwest, officials said.

"The security after the killing of Osama has been lax instead of being tighter. We are feeling insecure," said Tahir Khan, 20, a student standing near the site of the blast in Peshawar.

One of the consulate vehicles, which police said was armored, was riddled with shrapnel. The blast forced it to slam into an electricity pole beside a pre-school.

"I had just arrived at school and was about to start my work when there was a big blast. The windows of our school were broken and I was hurt," said school administrator Zahid Zaman from a hospital bed.

The Pakistani rupee fell to an eight-month low of 86 to a dollar on Friday. Dealers said the new attack had compounded uncertainty linked to bin Laden's killing and its aftermath.

Americans have been targeted before in Pakistan.

In April of 2010, militants using a car bomb and firing weapons attacked the U.S. consulate in Peshawar. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the operation in which eight people, including three militants, were killed. No one in the mission was hurt.

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 against them.

The United States wants nuclear-armed Pakistan to be a more reliable partner in its war on militancy. Cooperation between the two allies is needed to stabilize neighboring Afghanistan.

Ties have been severely damaged since the secret raid that killed bin Laden. Pakistan is under pressure to explain how he spent what appeared to be about five years in a military town not far from the capital.

Pakistan's army was infuriated by the operation, describing it as a violation of national sovereignty.

(Additional reporting by Zeeshan Haiderin Islamabad and Izaz Mohmand, Khurram Pervez and Saad Khan in Peshawar and Saud Mehsud in Dera Ismail Khan; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Ron Popeski)

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