US vehicles attacked in Pakistan; 1 Pakistani dies

May 20, 2011 - 12:58 AM
Bin Laden Raid

FILE - This May 3, 2011, file photo, shows a view of Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. U.S. officials briefed on the secret mission to get Osama bin Laden in Pakistan say the raid’s planners knew it was a one-shot deal. Those behind the raid predicted at the time that outrage over the breach of Pakistani sovereignty would make it impossible to try again if the raid came up dry. (AP Photo/Aqeel Ahmed)

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — A car bomb exploded near a pair of armored U.S. consulate vehicles carrying Americans in northwest Pakistan on Friday, the first attack on Westerners since the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden. A Pakistani passer-by died, while Americans in one vehicle were slightly wounded.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the morning attack in Peshawar, which left at least 10 people wounded, but the Pakistani Taliban have promised to avenge the al-Qaida chief's May 2 slaying, including by targeting Americans in Pakistan.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Alberto Rodriguez said only one vehicle was damaged during the attack, and that the Americans in it were slightly hurt.

No high-ranking U.S. official was in the vehicles, which were making a routine trip to the consulate, he said. He did not specify the number of Americans involved, but police said there were two "foreigners" in the damaged vehicle.

Peshawar lies just outside Pakistan's tribal regions, where al-Qaida and the Taliban have long had hideouts. The city has witnessed many of the suicide and other bombings that have scarred Pakistan over the past five years, including many that have killed security forces and Pakistani civilians. Though not unheard of, attacks on foreigners in Pakistan are still relatively few.

Pakistani television footage from the scene Friday showed that the car that was hit was a large, sport utility vehicle. It appeared to have veered into a pole and the hood was damaged. Senior police official Shafi Ullah said the vehicle was bulletproof. Nearby buildings also were damaged in the blast.

The U.S. Consulate in Peshawar, which is widely believed to house a significant CIA presence, has been targeted in the past.

In August 2008, Lynne Tracy, then the top U.S. diplomat at the consulate, survived a gun attack on her armored vehicle. In April last year, Islamist militants used car bombs and grenades to strike the consulate, killing eight people. None of the dead were U.S. citizens, but several were security guards working for the consulate.

On Friday, some 110 pounds (50 kilogram) of explosives were placed in a nearby car and detonated when one of the consulate vehicles approached, senior police official Liaquat Ali Khan said. He said the second U.S. vehicle arrived shortly after the attack and whisked away the Americans. Pakistani police were still trying to establish whether the car containing the explosives was moving or stationary when it went off.

The attack comes as the U.S. raid that killed bin Laden in the Pakistani garrison city of Abbottabad — just a few hours away from Peshawar — has badly damaged Pakistani-American relations.

Pakistan is angry it was not warned in advance that the Navy SEALs team would storm bin Laden's compound, and insists it had no idea the terror mastermind was hiding there. U.S. officials have visited Pakistan in recent days to try to patch up differences, and assure Pakistan's continued cooperation in the battle against al-Qaida and allies Islamist militant groups.

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Toosi reported from Islamabad.