U.S. Consulate Repels Taliban Assault in Peshawar

Taliban launch frontal attack on consulate with suicide car bomb and RPGs.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, April 5, 2010 — -- Pakistani militants launched a frontal assault on the American consulate in the frontier city of Peshawar today, firing rockets and exploding massive bombs, but failed to breach the compound's heavily fortified security.

At least two Pakistani security guards were killed in the attacks, but no Americans suffered more than light wounds, according to two U.S. officials in Pakistan.

The assault struck at the heart of the American effort along the Pakistani-Afghan border region where militants launch attacks both in Pakistan and at U.S. soldiers across the border. About 100 Americans work out of the consulate, which houses several intelligence officers , but also oversees millions of dollars in reconstruction money for Pakistan's tribal areas.

The Pakistani Taliban called reporters to take credit for the attacks, which began just after 1:00 p.m. local time. A car bomb exploded inside the first consulate checkpoint, according to a member of the consulate who was inside at the time.

Shortly after, militants fired automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades into the compound, causing damage to one of the buildings, according to the consulate member. Bashir Ahmed Bilor, a senior minister in Pakistan's frontier areas, told reporters that the militants were wearing Pakistani paramilitary uniforms.

At some point, an additional two car bombs exploded, filling the sky over the elite part of the city with massive clouds of smoke. At no point did the militants manage to breach the consulate security.

"Personnel at the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar are at the forefront of U.S. support for the Government of Pakistan's security and development agenda in FATA and NWFP," a statement by the U.S. embassy in Islamabad said, referring to the Pakistani tribal areas and its Northwest Frontier Province.

"The U.S. is grateful for the support of Pakistan's security forces in Peshawar, who responded quickly to this attack in support of the U.S. consulate."

Four Taliban were killed in the attack, but in the hours immediately following the attack, police said they feared suspects were still on the loose, and army helicopters flew above the consulate area.

Suicide Bomber Kills 41 at Political Rally

The attack was not the most violent incident in Pakistan today. However, earlier in the day, a suicide bomber hit a rally organized by a Pashtun nationalist party in Lower Dir, in the Northwest Frontier Province.

Local police chief Mumtaz Zarin Khan told The Associated Press that 41 people were killed and 80 wounded in the attack. "A police official spotted the bomber a second before he exploded. The official shot at him, but by that time, he had done his job," Khan told the AP.