PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Islamist militants unleashed a car bomb and grenade attack against a U.S. Consulate in northwestern Pakistan on Monday, killing four and striking back after months of American missile strikes against Taliban and al-Qaida fighters in the region.
Hours earlier, a suicide bomber killed 45 and wounded more than 70 at a rally by a secular political party in the northwest that has supported recent Pakistani army offensives in the region close to Afghanistan, where the United States is battling a related insurgency.
The multipronged strike against the consulate in Peshawar city was the first direct assault on a U.S. mission in the country since 2006. Officials said the four attackers in two vehicles hoped to breach the heavily fortified compound and kill people inside, but they failed to do that and caused only minor damage. The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad said no American employees were seriously wounded.
They detonated their first suicide vehicle at a checkpoint some 20 yards from the entrance to the consulate, said Peshawar police Chief Liaquat Ali Khan. The second vehicle, which was carrying a larger amount of explosives, was stopped at another security barrier some 15 yards from the entrance. "The driver had no option, but to detonate the vehicle right there," Khan said.
The second blast killed two militants wearing suicide vests who were walking ahead of the pickup, said Khan.
Some officials and witnesses reported a third or possible fourth explosion. The blasts, some of which were filmed by local television stations, sent huge mushroom clouds over the city. One piece of footage showed a bomb exploding several yards from two people who had their arms raised in the air as if surrendering.